You might’ve discerned by now that “simplicity” is a recurring theme of mine as well as something I aspire to live out in my own life. In terms of money and the material it affords, I think the Western Church has migrated to lands unimaginable to the first followers of Jesus. The way we view the material and how we use it would be as foreign to them as their ways, if we’re honest, are to us. It’s not bad to have a lot of money. In fact, it’s good to have a lot so we can help those who don’t have enough. If you think about it from a biblical vantage point, that’s the real value of money, to share it. “He must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”
You say, “Yeah, but Paul said that God ‘gives us richly all things to enjoy.’” A crowd favorite verse in many churches.
That’s true, but then Jesus said “It’s better to give than to receive.” So if we blend those two together it seems clear that God gives us things richly to enjoy, and the best way to enjoy them is to share them with people who don’t have enough. I don’t know about you, but receiving makes me pretty happy, but if giving is even better than that, then I want to get on with giving!
Christopher Heuertz said, “The Western Church for the most part has mistaken God’s financial blessings as individual provision rather than resources with potential for kingdom development.” He also said that “God is using the cries of our friends who suffer in poverty today to call the church out of its soundproof sanctuaries.”
There’s a community called Reimagine did an experiment called, ”Have two, give one.” In order to live out what they call “radical generosity” they decided to sell or giveaway half of their material possessions, donating the proceeds to global poverty relief. “Our goal wasn’t to be exacting or legalistic, but to playfully engage each other to live more freely and generously.” Each week over an 8-week period they chose a category of possessions to sell, share, or giveaway. One week it would be clothes, another week books and music, and another week valuables and larger household items like cars and bicycles. Sometimes they gave these items to someone else in the group who needed them, others they sold and donated the money to a charity. “It was shocking,” Mark Scandrette says, “to find out how little some of our possessions were worth and disappointing that we regarded them as so precious.”
When talking about holiness we usually think of activities such as sexuality, speech, substances, and Sunday services. But the Bible speaks of our sanctification in terms generosity to the poor as much or more than all of these put together. We really should consider amending our view of what God requires of us to include what Mother Teresa called a “Social holiness.”
Someone sent a package with the letter inside to the Word Made Flesh Ministry. In it was a handful of used pacifiers. The letter said, “Our two-year-old great daughter Grace and I have a little prayer book that we pray through each night. Grace has been adamant about sending her ”bobbie’s” to poor children. She has even picked out which children will receive which colors that will make them feel “all better.” Even though she no longer uses her pacifiers, she is attached to them as she remembers that they always make her feel better. They are really precious to her. Please accept these on behalf of the children you encounter and know that there is a two-year-old in Alabama who sincerely loves and prays for them.” If that doesn’t touch your heart, it’s untouchable.
So, rather than give you a lot of text, I’ve provided an outlined list of passages here on Simplicity and Generosity. I’ve made an audio podcast on the subject that I hope you’ll listen to in conjunction with these passages.
- Proverbs 11:24 One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
- Proverbs 19:17 He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done.
- Proverbs 21:13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered.
- Proverbs 28:27 He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses.
Jesus, the Generous
(These are just the passages from Luke, which is the Gospel most emphatic about Jesus’ ministry to the poor. I’ve listed the references from the other Gospels below)
- Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free.
- Luke 6:20 Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
- Luke 7:22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
- Luke 11:41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
- Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.
- Luke 14:13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,
- Luke 14:12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.
- Luke 18:22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
- Luke 19:8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
- Luke 21:2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.
- Luke 21:3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others.
- Matthew 5:3; 11:5; 19:21; 26:9; 26:11
- Mark 10:21; 12:42; 43; 14:5; 14:7
- John 12:5; 12:6; 12:8; 13:29
The Generous Early Church
- Acts 9:36 In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.
- Acts 10:4 Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.
- Acts 10:31 ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor.’
- Acts 24:17 After an absence of several years, I came to Jerusalem to bring my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings.
Paul on Generosity
- Galatians 2:10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.
- Ephesians 4:28 who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
- 1 Timothy 6:17-19 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In 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.
- 2 Corinthians 9:8-11 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
If you were asked, “What was the sin of Sodom?” What would you say? Take a look at what the prophet Ezekiel said about it: Ezekiel 16:49-50
Some other posts and podcasts that might interest you: