Well it happened yesterday, the Governor of Illinois extended the “Stay at Home Order” for another month. While I’m not surprised, I must admit a groan of disappointment came out of me. What I have especially missed is the meeting together of fellow Believers at Church…and from many conversations with others, I know this is a common feeling. That’s because we are all living stones being built into a Spiritual house called the Church (I Peter 2:5)…but right now the Church as we know it cannot be together…so what do we do? Many weeks ago as I encouraged friends to reach out from their homes using their gifts, talents, and passions, I called it their “Quarantine Ministry” A way of practicing hospitality and works of charity from their homes using what the Lord has given them…their gifts, talents, and passions. And I can only praise God as I watched these friends use what they do well to benefit others! We may be isolating for another 30 days, but that doesn’t mean our acts of generosity should be affected. For God’s work knows no bounds…and helping others is a beautiful act of praising His Name.
Staying in Psalm 37 today, you can see the progression of these verses. David, the writer of this Psalm, has followed the Lord all his life, and by experience can vouch that God is his helper and will never leave or forsake those who believe in Him. In turn, because such mercy and favor has been shown to him, he is then obligated to show the same mercy to others. In Leviticus 25:35, the Lord was very clear about this, “Helping your countrymen if they become poor so they may remain among you.” The Hebrew word for “helping” describes supporting, strengthening, encouraging, and repairing those around us that are lacking to maintain a strong community…but also because we have been graciously blessed first.
You may think you’re stingy with your money…but I know something else of yours that you’re even more tight-fisted with…it’s your time. We all act like our time is more precious than others. And when asked to volunteer, our stock answer usually is, “Sorry, but I just don’t have the time for that.” I can dare say for the most part we are more selfish with our time than with our money. But in II Corinthians 8:12 it talks about giving generously and having the desire and willingness to give what you have, not what you don’t have. We’ve all been given the same amount of hours in the day…but it’s what we do with them that will make a Kingdom difference in this hurting world.
For most people, when they read this verse, they think it’s all about money or material possessions. But I would challenge you today to be generous with yourself. It means blessing others with your smile and giving them the gift of a cheerful heart. It means seeking out the good in someone, and then of affirming and encouraging that good. For when you sow generously of yourself…others can not help but see the outer reflection of an inner attitude of Christ’s love.
We see a need…the Holy Spirit nudges us to give, whether that be our money, time, or talents…but we resist, make excuses, or just plain say, “No way!” The very greatest thing we can learn from this Proverb is to not repress a generous impulse. For when we silence that compulsion to be unselfish…we are denying others and ourselves a blessing. We are stopping God from using us to further His Kingdom work…and we are depriving ourselves of His favor. So don’t suppress a generous impulse when it happens…for the Lord is depending on you to fill that specific need.
Giving…whether it be money, time or talents is a real stumbling block for many Christians. We tend to be a selfish, self-centered people…when the Lord wants us to be generous. We want to be recognized and honored for anything we do…when the Lord requires discretion. (Matthew 6:1-4) We give the Lord left-overs…rather than, like the poor widow, giving all we have.
What’s it mean to excel in the grace of giving? Here the Apostle Paul was encouraging the Church in Corinth to be generous in their giving to others. Generosity can be a learned behavior…we see our parents or family acting unselfishly with their money or time…and we do the same. But on the other hand, dire circumstances we’ve lived through can also determine how generous we are, or not. Fearless generosity is an investment into God’s Kingdom work and excelling in this grace of giving is the start of that bold approach.
God is a generous giver and His desire is to bless us. It says in James 1:17 that, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” So as big-hearted as God is towards us, we need to reflect that generosity in our giving to others. But He’s not just talking about money here…for it’s easy to give money. No, He’s talking about our time…and we’re probably more tight-fisted about that than any amount of money we’d give. Proverbs 21:26 tells us, “The righteous give without sparing.” So if you’ve been stingy with your time for the Lord…think of this…you will never be able to out give God.
This time of year we are inundated with requests and pleas for donations. They call on the phone, they mail us fliers, they approach us in public places. All these overwhelming requests can turn anyone cold towards helping others…to the point of thinking, ” I can’t give, I can hardly get by with what I have!” Paul addressed this in II Corinthians 8:2 – where he explained even though the Church in Macedonia was going through severe trials and extreme poverty, their joy of the Lord overflowed and welled up into rich generosity towards others. God has proven over and over again that you can’t out give Him. So allow joy and thankfulness to fill your heart this Holiday Season as you give generously to others…not out of your lack, but out of His riches.
As Believers we are called to be a generous people…and this was displayed vividly this morning in Church. Our Pastor announced that as we left each family would be receiving a plain white envelope with cash inside ranging from $20- $100. We were to consider this a starting point to bless others during this holiday season. The Lord has called all of us to be missional…reaching outside the Church walls to help others. For we are to be His ambassadors… shining His light, expanding His Kingdom, and seeking to leave an eternal impact on our community and world. (A direct quote from the note enclosed in the envelope.) As I hold this bill in my hand, I know the Lord will not only direct us as to how much we are to add to it, but who we should bless with it.