We live in such a materialistic, success-driven world. It seems that everyone is looking out for number one – for themselves. But God calls His people to live differently: He calls us to live generously in every way, every single day. In order to honor God and live generously, our character needs to be refined and molded because it certainly doesn’t come naturally for us to want to be generous. So how do we grow in our character and increase in generosity?
The Identity Connection
How we relate to money can sometimes be like a 2-sided coin; on one side there’s selfishness & greed, and on the other, there’s poverty & an orphan mentality. Both of these mindsets come from a position of lack where we believe that no matter what we have, it’s not enough. What we think of money will go to the core of our identity, so we have to be careful. Instead, we need to realize that we’re a son or daughter of the King of Kings and that we’ll have plenty because we have a generous Father who will provide everything we need.
King David reminds himself in Psalm 23:1, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” He reminded himself that he didn’t need to worry at all, and he wouldn’t lack anything from the good Shepherd who provided everything he needed. We cannot let an orphan spirit come in and cause us to doubt God’s ability to provide for us. And we must resist the tendency to depend on ourselves to provide.
We also have to guard against thinking about money and prosperity according to the world. We must not let the lust of the flesh derail us. There’s something about money that ties our heart or attracts us in the worldly way of things where we get caught up in what we think we need versus learning how to live without. Instead of thinking we need everything we see, we need to release our desires to our Good Shepherd, trusting that He’s enough and that we don’t need the “next best thing” to complete our identity.
King Solomon’s Relationship with Money
King Solomon knew the dangers of having his identity tied up in wealth. His prayer was, “Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).
Solomon asked God for neither poverty nor riches; he wanted just enough. He wanted to be satisfied with whatever he had, not driven by greed and not overcome by poverty. He also didn’t want to trust in his own strength or abilities to gain wealth; he understood that he needed God. The Lord knew his heart and knew he could be trusted with riches, so God blessed him immensely.
Solomon also understood that generosity is a character issue. We often think that when we have more or when we’re rich or when we win the lottery, THEN we’ll give or be more generous. But Jesus said it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the wealthy to enter into the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). It’s often more difficult for wealthy people to give because they are tied to money and they can’t let go of it. So having more money to give won’t make us more generous; having a right heart makes us more generous.
The Suffering Connection
As we know, without trials, suffering, and perseverance, our character doesn’t grow and develop. So what suffering or difficulty do we have to go through that makes us have to persevere that we would develop the character of generosity? Usually, it’s when we don’t have much financially. Or maybe we have a heart that is self-focused and self-absorbed.
Have you ever noticed that the people who are the worst off are often the most generous? Why is that? I think it’s because they truly know what it’s like to be in lack, to be without. It’s in our moments of deepest need (suffering) that we reach a place of generosity — when we’ve gone through enough suffering which develops perseverance which develops character. Remember, abundance doesn’t make us generous. If we won’t give out of a place of poverty or of what we have right now, then we’re not going to give it when we have more.
A Model of Generosity
Most people are more than familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10:25-37. Jesus was addressing the heart condition of people and trying to get beyond the culture of the day in which “good Jews” didn’t associate with “half-breed Samaritans.” In the story, the Samaritan man went against the grain of culture at that time, reaching out to help a complete stranger – a hurting Jew – and generously giving more than 2 day’s wages to help the Jewish man! Now that’s generosity!
Obviously, the Samaritan had to look beyond any offenses, heart wounds or heart issues. He had to be coming from a place of forgiveness and wholeness in order to be so generous. Generosity is a heart issue. And Jesus was teaching them to love God with everything and to love their neighbor as they loved themselves. Love is ACTION, and the characteristic of generosity is what Jesus was teaching in this parable. He was challenging them to live generously, to be a man’s neighbor, no matter their differences because giving to others is one powerful way we love God.
Generosity is all about being open-handed. Whatever I have, I want to be able to offer. So whether it’s our time, talents or our treasure, let’s submit our character to the Refiner and allow Him to mold and change us to live more generously. Let’s live with open hands and generous hearts, trusting God to be our good Shepherd and loving others the way He would have us, love – with action!
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