Jesus set the standard for giving when He relinquished all that He had so that we might become spiritually rich. The Apostle Paul reminds us of this in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “Though [Jesus] was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.” Likewise, we should be willing to share our wealth with those in need.
God has a heart for those in need. In the Old Testament, God commanded farmers to leave some of their crops in the field for the poor and the strangers in the land to glean (Lev. 19:9–10). In Isaiah 58:6–7 and 9–10, He told the Israelites:
Isn’t the fast I choose … to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood? … At that time, when you call, the LORD will answer; when you cry out, He will say, “Here I am.” If you get rid of the yoke among you, the finger-pointing and malicious speaking, and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday.
Similarly, John the Baptist commanded the people, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same” (Luke 3:11). And John questions in 1 John 3:17, “If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?”
Given the heart of God, it should not be surprising to discover that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit given to the church is a spirit of generosity that seeks to contribute to the needs of others (Rom. 12:6–8). But Jesus cautions that when we give, it should not be to further our own reputation:
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Generous giving among Christians is one of God’s favorite means of supplying the needs of His people. When raising money for the needs of those in the church at Jerusalem, the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “It is not that there may be relief for others and hardship for you, but it is a question of equality—at the present time your surplus is available for their need, so their abundance may also become available for our need, so there may be equality. As it has been written: The person who gathered much did not have too much, and the person who gathered little did not have too little” (emphasis removed). God’s heart is for His people to continually seek to help one another financially. In doing so, the needs of His people will be met by one another. Therefore, investing in the needs of others is a kind of heavenly insurance policy.
This is not to say that God’s people will always be comfortable. In fact, the Apostle Paul noted in 2 Corinthians 8:2–4 how the Macedonian churches gave even beyond their means, “During a severe testing by affliction, their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed into the wealth of their generosity. I testify that, on their own, according to their ability and beyond their ability, they begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints …”. By all reasonable metrics, the Christians in Macedonia had nothing to give. Some might even conclude that they were themselves in need of assistance, and yet they pleaded for the opportunity to give toward the need of their fellow Christians in Jerusalem. This is because they gave themselves first unto the Lord to accomplish His will (2 Cor. 8:5). They considered themselves to be mere stewards of God’s money which is to be invested into His kingdom.
Why should God grant us as stewards more money when we are not yet investing what He has already given us into furthering His kingdom? When we give generously to others, we provide God with incentive to entrust us with further wealth. This is not a means of tricking God into increasing our standard of living. Instead, it is merely a means of increasing our ability to share with others. Perhaps this is one of the meanings behind Jesus’ words in Luke 6:38, “‘Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.’”
Strange as it may seem, God encourages us to give generously as a kind of heavenly insurance policy. When we seek to meet the needs of others, we join a network of people who will in turn seek to meet our needs in times of trouble. As Proverbs 28:27 says, “The one who gives to the poor will not be in need, but one who turns his eyes away will receive many curses.”
This article is excerpted from the paper “Seeking Refuge in a Precarious Economy.”
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.