Fearfully Generous

There is no better example of trust in God’s provision than the widow in Mark 12: 42. How could this woman be willing to give all she had except that she trusted that God would provide for her somehow—even if she didn’t understand how.

Many of us put only left-over change into the collection plate, and maybe give token amounts to a few charities. We reason that if we give more, then we won’t have enough for our own needs. Or we may believe the old adage that God helps those who help themselves. Or we may feel it is the government’s responsibility to care for the needy.  After all, we pay taxes that support government welfare programs.

What drives these attitudes?
I submit it is because we live in a general spirit of fear. In my work as a Financial Advisor, I often hear clients’ concerns for our country and how our political dysfunction and its financial mismanagement will lead to the imminent collapse of our economy. Their fear is that chaos worse than the depressions of 2008 and the 1930’s will result in government confiscation of accounts and even lead to soup lines. The general sentiment of these clients is a feeling of being overwhelmed. They envision a bleak retirement of having to work as a Walmart greeter.

Who benefits from this kind of outlook? Who is set to gain by having a significant number of our citizenry scared and paralyzed by fear?

I agree we have much to worry about in our world and our country, including a general decaying of morality in our society. But remember, none of this is new. Solomon assures us in Ecclesiastes 1: 9 that there is nothing new under the sun. There is always something going on in our world to cause worry.

Should we throw up our hands, sigh in exasperation, and give up in despair? No! Rather, we should do all we can with our God given talents and abilities to work for the common good. And like the poor widow, we should do so with an unshakable trust that God will provide.

Fear is the Enemy
Fear is the enemy of a generous spirit. It is the manifestation of our lack of trust. It paralyzes us from acting and makes us want to hoard our resources. Consider the widow in 1 Kings 17: 9. She was resigned to the belief that she and her son would eat the last of what they had, and then die. Elijah told her, “Do not be afraid.” He instructed her to give him that last of her resources; that if she did, God would provide.

Why would she trust Elijah, a total stranger? How could she justify giving the last of her food to him, believing the ridiculous promise Elijah made that if she did so, her flour and oil would not run out? It had to be that by Grace, she trusted that God would honor her generosity.

What great examples these two women are for us today. They refused to succumb to fear and acted generously beyond reason, beyond what their resources would seemingly allow. And why not? What good would hoarding have done for them? As Solomon warned, it would all have been chasing after the wind.

We, too, should heed their example. We should cultivate an attitude of generosity. We are not to allow fear and greed to direct our actions, or be excuses for inaction. Greed saps us of any sense of generosity we may have. It causes us to be cynical and to question God.

Being generous is not dependent on the amount of wealth we have. Many of us can relate to the rich man in Mark 12 who gave out of his surplus, knowing that he still had plenty for himself. However, lack of wealth is not justification for parsimony. Jesus did not run after the widow and say something like, “Oh honey, really. Take your money back. I appreciate your gesture, but you’re too poor. Why don’t you just keep your money?” Instead, He praised her generosity for all generations to come.

As to the idea that God helps those who help themselves (not in the Bible, by the way), how would God do that? Isn’t it our generous actions in service to others the help that God sends?

Generosity is a disposition of our spirit. It reflects our general outlook on life. Do we trust God’s promises or not? Do we acknowledge that all we have is because of God’s generously giving to us the talents and abilities that allow us to earn and serve?

If so, our grateful response is to give of all of our resources, including money. Let us give and give lavishly. Let us give and trust that God will honor our generosity.