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Overflowing Generosity

Americans are generous.  But are we generous enough?

American society may be the most charitable in history.  We have the most social programs for the poor and underprivileged, from both church and government. We give the most in humanitarian foreign aid. We have the greatest concern for missions as well as charity.  By human standards, we certainly pass muster.  But what about God's standards?  Does He approve of our level of giving?

We cannot determine God's approval by comparing ourselves with others.  Paul said, "But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding." (2 Cor. 10:12).

Jesus said, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" (Luke 12:48)  Since ours is the richest society in history, it stands to reason that we should give more—not only more, but a larger  proportion of our income.   For us, God has raised the bar.

God's criterion for adequate giving is not based on fixed percentage of the giver's income, but on the needs which exist. The Bible records instances of  giving approved by God:

For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales. (Acts 4 :34)

For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying  the needs of the [saints, but is also overflowing  through many thanksgivings to God. (2 Corinthians 9 :12)

Are we meeting  the needs of the poor among us?  Not just for their daily bread, but also for education and training,  for career opportunities which makes full use of their God-given talents and abilities, and for creative expression through music and art?  This might appear to be impossible – but it is more than possible, if we re-orient our priorities, lowered our personal consumption of goods  and services,  and instead purchase goods and services on others' behalf.

Although God has raised the bar for our giving, we have not risen to the occasion. Instead, we look to others to set the pace, and give as much as they do (or perhaps a little more if we're feeling extra holy).  We care much more about others' opinions than about  God's requirements.

Some Christians feel that tithing fulfills their charitable obligation.  In this way they avoid having to face the issue of poverty on a daily basis.   When confronted with a need, they say:  "I've already given my share".  However,  as global communications have improved, our awareness of the world's poverty has correspondingly broadened, and our responsibility is  that much greater.  How often do we watch  or read news of  starvation, disasters, oppression, and degradation, and fail to do anything about it?  We should either do more or watch less.

The choices you make towards others are the same choices that God makes towards you.  If you give your flat ten percent towards the poor and give the matter no further thought, then God will treat you the same way.  Spiritually,  He will give you a flat percentage, and leave you to your own devices.  Overall, this is a fair representation of the American Church today.  Like an independent teenager, she receives an allowance from her Father, to spend as she wants – but apart from this,  she has little to do with Him.  For she is preoccupied with her own interests and priorities, which have little to do  with His purposes and desires.

Prayer: Father, please instruct us to give according to Your will, and not according to the standards of those around us.  Enlarge our constricted hearts.  As far as consumption of resources, we swallow a  camel and strain out a gnat.  Our expensive lifestyles are essentially barren, because Your presence has gone out from among us.  We honor you with our lips, but our hearts are far from You.  You are far from our hearts, because Your heart is with the needy whom we have neglected.  We have hidden our faces from them, so You have hidden Your face from us.  Jesus, Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world,  pour out upon us Your spirit of grace and supplication, that we may see how we pierce Your heart  by our self-indulgence.  Amen.

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Copyright © 2001 CrossPollen
Last Revised: August 10, 2001

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