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I don’t always feel like being generous, but when I do give generously, I’ve noticed something wonderful happens. When I give generously, I experience joy.
Maybe you’ve experienced this too. I hope you have. You may not need an article this week about the importance of giving, but I’ve experienced during this quarantine that withdrawing and protecting has become too easy.
The panic of a pandemic sends many of us to our safe havens both physically and financially, even emotionally. I confess it gives me a great excuse not to hug, reach out, or visit my neighbors.
During this time of isolation babies have been born, friends underwent surgery, birthdays were celebrated, and it’s been easy to only send a text or comment on their Facebook posts rather than actually doing something. Maybe I do have a good excuse now, but I don’t want this to become my new normal. I fear that this quarantine is the beginning of our love growing lukewarm. The scripture keeps running through my mind as if Holy Spirit has bookmarked it in my heart for such a time as this.
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.Revelation 3: 15-17
Scriptures like this one, aren’t my favorite. I like to stay positive and encouraging. But sometimes encouragement comes in the form of conviction and heart inventory. Are our deeds becoming lukewarm, half-hearted efforts to love people?
The Law of Love
Did you know that generosity is part of God’s law? We hear the word law, and we think negatively usually, but another word for law could be principle, or instruction to live by. The law of gravity isn’t bad. It’s actually very good, so is the law of giving to others. The church of Laodecia were wealthy by worldly means, but they were spiritual paupers because they had lost sight of God’s law of love and generosity.
The greatest commandments from the written law, according to Jesus, were:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”Matthew 22: 36-40 NIV
Did you catch the word “like” in that sentence? I did some digging to find the word Matthew wrote, at least the Greek version. This is what I found:
homoios: (I) Generally, similar in external form and appearance. . . (II) Just like, equal, the same with: in kind or nature; in conduct, character, in authority, dignity, power (Mt. 22:39; Mk 12:31: Rev 13:4)Key Word Bible p. 2218 #3664
According to the Key Word definition, loving our neighbors is equal to loving God. If that’s the case, when we aren’t loving each other, we aren’t loving God. And love cannot be demonstrated by word only. It needs hands and feet, home cooked dinners, hugs, and sometimes financial gifts.
In his book Mishnah and the Words of Jesus, Dr. Roy Blizzard wrote something profound about righteousness. He maintains that we cannot be righteous, right with God, until we are right with man through loving-kindess, charity, and helping one another.
We have never quite understood that in order to be in right relationship with God, one must first be in right relationship with his fellow man.Blizzard, p. 17
The Law of Generosity
This brings me to one of my favorite Bible verses. It comes from Jesus’s sermon on the mount. Jesus was teaching about money, trusting God, and not allowing money to be your god. In the middle of this teaching Jesus says,
‘The eye is the lamp of the body.’ So if you have a ‘good eye’ [that is, if you are generous] your whole body will be full of light; 23 but if you have an ‘evil eye’ [if you are stingy] your whole body will be full of darkness. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No one can be slave to two masters; for he will either hate the first and love the second, or scorn the second and be loyal to the first. You can’t be a slave to both God and money.Matt. 6: 22-24 CJB (emphasis mine.)
Is Your Eye Good?
The first time I read this out of the Complete Jewish Bible, I almost jumped off the couch! It made so much sense now. Most of us don’t know that a “good eye” is a generous one and a “evil eye” is a stingy one. But I’ve experienced the light inside me when I’ve been generous. It’s joy. Pure joy.
However, I’ve also experienced the stingy darkness. “I’m so sorry, God.” And that’s why I’m writing about generosity and joy today. It’s why I’m giving the generosity challenge this week. But first, let’s look at the Bite of Bread reading plan for the week.
Bite of Bread
You can take this home with you. Just download or print right here.
1 John 3: 17-18
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Prompt: Ouch! How do you react to this verse? I react praying for grace to have a more generous heart to give to my brothers and sisters in need consistently. I do live by grace, but I do know I could be more giving. Sit for awhile waiting on God concerning this verse. If someone comes to your mind, pray for them, then reach out to them to see if they have needs. (You may already know what they are and need to generously give.)
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Prompt: If you’ve felt stuck in your own muck lately, worrying about your issues, ask God who you can love on today. Give that person a call. Ask them how you can pray for them. You may find out in their prayer request that you can be the answer or part of the answer to that prayer.
Deuteronomy 15: 7-8
If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.
Prompt: Who do you know who may need some help financially? If you can help financially, ask the Lord how to do that for this person.
1 Timothy 6: 18-19
Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
Prompt: Ya’ll, do you want to have what is truly life? This verse tells us how. If you go through a drive-thru this week, pay for the person behind you. 😊
Acts 20:35 (further reading Acts 20:32-38)
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Prompt: In context, Paul is saying goodbye to the Ephesian elders. He’s talking of how he worked to supply his needs in order to minister to the people. Sometimes I think we think ministry will be easy, but in truth it is difficult and costly. Write a prayer in your journal for your pastor and his/her family and ask the Lord how you can encourage or help your pastor this week.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.
Prompt: Do we ever withhold our generosity from God? Pray about giving and possibly giving an extra amount to your local church or another ministry. (I recently gave on the spur of the moment to my local Christian radio station during a fund raiser, and it was so much fun! It was actually the catalyst of this blog post.)
Take the Generosity Challenge!
If this post has encouraged or convicted you, take the 5 day generosity challenge with me. I’ll be doing this too! Some of these challenges involve financial giving. Please remember it’s not about the amount or the money. Find another way to be generous if you cannot give financially.
Day 1: Call someone you haven’t checked on in a long time. Ask them how you can be praying for them.
Day 2: Intentionally reach out to a neighbor today. Maybe take them some tulips or summer flowers.
Day 3: Give a waiter or someone who provides a service for you a generous tip beyond your normal.
Day 4: Go through a drive-thru and pay for the person behind you.
Day 5: If you are financially able, send an anonymous check to someone who you know needs financial help or if you can’t, pray about another way you can bless them.
Wednesday Night Gathering and Drawing
This Wednesday night meet me on Facebook to unpack these scriptures, be encouraged, and find out who the winners are for the books by Ann Spangler on praying the names of God and Jesus. Hope you can join us at 7:30 PM ET on my timeline.
Finally, may I pray for you? Hold my hands. “Father, help us be generous with our time, our finances, our words of encouragement, and our love. Open our hearts to our neighbors and those in need. Don’t let our love grow lukewarm. We need your grace. Thank you for being such an open-handed, generous God! Amen.”