“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want…Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor…Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 11:24; 14:21; 19:17)
Generosity is a subject that we don’t hear much about these days, so I thought we would benefit from meditating on it this week. Unselfishness, open-handedness, and kindness are characteristics that God gives humans alone. That being so, we have a particular responsibility to demonstrate charitableness to glorify God. Scripture clearly and frequently teaches that God expects us to care for those in need, with respect, since they, like us, are made in the image of God. In James 2:5-10 the apostle reminds believers that we are to show justice to all, rather than show favoritism to the wealthy. However, our greatest bias is usually not toward others who are rich, but toward ourselves. We often put our needs and ourselves first, to live a lifestyle that is comfortable and enjoyable.
Today, most individuals and families are spending up to 50% of their income on food as a result of choosing to eat out rather than eat at home. The type of food bought for consumption at home also affects family budgets, as consumers purchase more expensive, prepared convenience foods over raw meats and vegetables. By doing so, people are consciously choosing to spend their available cash on their food (and entertainment, sports, lottery tickets, etc.) instead of giving to those who are less fortunate.
The three verses from Proverbs point to three benefits of sharing with the poor; those who do will grow richer, they will be blessed, and they will be repaid by the Lord. Many charismatic preachers mistakenly use Proverbs 11:24 to justify asking their congregants for financial support beyond their means. However, God’s justice requires that we help the poor, not exploit or oppress them. “It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice…He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor.” (Psalm 112:5, 9) The riches and honor that we obtain from our generosity are those that only God can give, of his wisdom, peace, and righteousness.
Proverbs 14:21 rebukes those who hate their neighbors as sinners who will not be blessed. We know from Jesus’s teaching on the parable of the good Samaritan in Luke 10:36 that a true neighbor is one who is merciful to the poor; he is blessed with contentment and generosity. The idea presented in Proverbs 19:17 may seem enigmatic at first but upon reflection is logical. When we serve God’s people, we are serving him, and as such our service is a gift to God, as if giving (loaning) to him that which he has given us as stewards, and will return to us in one form or another.
Our generosity as stewards in this life will prepare us for the greatest reward in our future lives. When Jesus presents us with a crown of life (Rev. 2:10), we will delight in returning it to him, the One who rightfully deserves it.
How generous will you be today with your time, energy, love, mercy, money, and care?