taking generosity off the back-burner
“After we pay off our car, when we get our income tax return, after I get my promotion, when my job feels more secure”—generosity gets shifted to the back burner when it makes more financial sense. We justify our minimal giving by turning God’s promises upside-down. “When God ‘blesses’ me, I’ll use my wealth for ministry. We have big plans to give generously—someday.” Paul challenges us to give generously now because of what God has already done.
Christians in Judea were being persecuted and were in need of financial assistance. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about his upcoming visit, he reminded them about the promise the Corinthian church had already made to send money. They’d been procrastinating. Paul encouraged them to make good on their word for the Judeans’ and their own sakes. Through the gift, God’s blessings would fall on both.
Paul didn’t promise immediate material gain, but something much more. Paul knew persecution and poverty because of his gospel work, but he had a larger vision than the things in the here and now. He knew his God. This God makes himself known to those who open themselves up to him.
Paul quoted from Psalm 112 to connect us with how God has shown faithfulness toward us and from Isaiah 55 to tether us to God’s new creation. Because of God’s faithfulness in the past and our hope of enjoying a glorious feast in the future, we can be generous in our present lives.
Generosity springs from the story of the whole Bible. It’s not just something we do. It’s who we are.
Giving up our present comforts and our present anxieties requires an eternal vision. Choosing to live according to God’s vision means diligently giving even when it doesn’t make worldly sense. By faith we can give from the first of our harvests as the Israelites did, trusting that God will provide what we need for our spiritual lives. Rather than holding on to your tithe just to make sure the job works out, give it now knowing you can trust God. Instead of clinging to your early retirement plan or dreams of traveling, give extra toward God’s longer-term plan. Invite that messy family over to your messy house to build eternal relationships that overlook the chaos. Give up a manicure to pay for a neighbor’s kids to attend VBS with your kids.
entangling our hearts
Our hearts get attached to certain ways of living, future dreams, and worries of this world. The only way to cut them free is by giving generously. Writing a check to your church or a missionary invests you in God’s kingdom rather than your own. Supporting a child reminds you of the universal church. These are not “someday” things or ideas for the rich and famous, but norms of the Christian experience. Giving God the things of this world entangle our hearts with the things of God’s reality.