God's Reward to the Generous
God's Reward to the Generous
‘I am so happy I could cry! I am so excited that we might have the chance to go to Focus [our church holiday]! I can’t wait to see my children’s faces when I tell them!’ This was the reaction of a mother with two young children in our congregation when she heard she would be given a bursary (a discounted rate) to come to Focus. At the end of the week she wrote, ‘It is the best holiday we have ever had as a family. I am so happy.’
I love the fact that hundreds of people come to Focus on bursaries, or even for nothing. Others give generously to make this possible.
A few months later the mother who had written to me unexpectedly inherited some money from a distant relative. She gave extraordinarily generously. The amount far more than covered the bursary she and her family had received.
This is a practical outworking of the New Testament principle that those who can afford give to help those who cannot afford – so that there might be equality: ‘At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need’ (2 Corinthians 8:14).
So much of our world is taken up with thinking, writing and talking about money, wealth and riches. The Bible has a great deal to say about these subjects. However, the biblical position is in contrast to that of today’s culture.
In today’s New Testament passage, Paul tells us that the whole point of the incarnation of Jesus was that you might ‘become rich’ (v.9). However, the passages for today totally redefine this world’s understanding of the word ‘rich’.
Fasten on your reputation far more than richesProverbs 21:27-22:6
However much money you may acquire, it doesn’t guarantee success in life: ‘victory rests with the Lord’ (v.31).
Reputation is far more important than riches.
‘A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich; a gracious spirit is better than money in the bank’ (22:1, MSG).
It is better to do what is right than to make more money by cutting corners, dubious practices or greed. As Billy Graham has said, ‘When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.’
Our culture values those on the ‘rich list’ far more than those dying of starvation in the poorer parts of the world. But the writer of Proverbs says, ‘The rich and the poor shake hands as equals – God made them both!’ (v.2, MSG).
The way of true riches is ‘humility and the fear of the Lord’ (v.4a). This brings ‘riches and honour and life’ (v.4b, AMP). It may sometimes bring material wealth. But the New Testament tells us that it always brings something of far more lasting value – spiritual riches in Christ.
Put God first in your life. His plans for you are ‘good, pleasing and perfect’ (Romans 12:2). And ‘there is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord’ (Proverbs 21:30).
Lord, help me to live a life of integrity and generosity, humility and fear of the Lord.
Follow the example of the one who went from riches to rags2 Corinthians 8:1-15
The singer Lily Allen effortlessly reflects what many people think in her song, ‘The Fear’:
‘I want to be rich and I want lots of money
I don’t care about clever I don’t care about funny
I want loads of clothes and **** loads of diamonds.’
So many people want to get rich. There are many examples of people going from ‘rags to riches’. However, there are few who have deliberately chosen to go from riches to rags!
Yet, right at the heart of our faith is one who chose to do exactly that: ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich’ (v.9). This is the heart of the gospel.
Jesus is the example we are to follow. Not only did he leave the riches of heaven for the poverty of an earthly life, but in that earthly life he chose to be born in poverty and died in the most extreme poverty imaginable.
He came to earth with nowhere to lay his head, and he hung, naked and in agony, on the cross. He did this in order that you might become rich – that you might have all the spiritual treasures of Christ. Jesus has shown us the supreme example of ‘rich generosity’ and what it means to ‘become rich’.
The Macedonian churches followed his example: ‘The trial exposed their true colours: They were incredibly happy, though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could – far more than they could afford! – pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians’ (v.2–4, MSG).
Although they were extremely poor, they worked out how much they could give and they gave even more than that.
Paul urged the Corinthians to follow their example. There were many areas of their lives that were excellent (v.7a). Paul said, ‘See that you also excel in this grace of giving’ (v.7c).
Paul then expounds the New Testament principle that those who have should give to support those who have not (vv.13–15). We see this principle at work at Focus and on many other occasions, including the Alpha Weekends. We invite those who cannot afford to pay to come for nothing (or for whatever they can afford). At the Weekend, we have an offering so that those who can afford it help to pay for those who cannot.
Lord, help me to follow the example of Jesus’ generosity and to excel in the grace of giving.
Focus on the reign of Jesus rather than on richesIsaiah 8:11-10:19
As Lily Allen sings in ‘The Fear’, if we focus on the wrong things we are ‘taken over by the fear’. But Isaiah says, ‘Don’t fear what they fear. Don’t take on their worries. If you’re going to worry, worry about The Holy. Fear God-of-the-Angel-Armies’ (8:12–13, MSG).
Isaiah warns against focusing on the occult, fortune-tellers, spiritualists and consulting the dead (v.19): ‘Tell them, “No, we’re going to study the Scriptures.” People who try the other ways get nowhere – a dead end… A blank wall, an empty hole. They end up in the dark with nothing’ (vv.20–22, MSG).
He also warns against pride and ‘arrogance of heart’ (9:9). In addition, he has much to say on the subject of riches.
First, riches in themselves do not satisfy: ‘Appetites insatiable, stuffing and gorging themselves left and right with people and things. But still they starved’ (v.20, MSG). However much money we make, it will never satisfy the deep spiritual hunger in every human heart.
Second, he warns against making money at the expense of the poor (10:1–3). Injustice is at the heart of so much suffering in the world: ‘Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims – Laws that make misery for the poor, that rob my destitute people of dignity, exploiting defenceless widows, taking advantage of homeless children’ (vv.1–2, MSG).
There are many countries in the world where we can see exactly this happening. A few people become very rich at the expense of the poor, the widows and the orphans. There are unjust laws and no justice for the people. Isaiah asks the question about the day of judgment: ‘Where will you leave your riches?’ (v.3d). All this money at the end of the day is utterly meaningless: ‘What good will all your money do you?’ (v.3d, MSG).
Into this world of injustice and inequality the prophet Isaiah sees a different kind of ruler arising – the ultimate fulfilment was, of course, in Jesus Christ: ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end’ (9:6–7a).
The more you allow the rule of Jesus in your life, the more he directs your plans, decisions, conversations and thoughts – the wiser you will become and, instead of being ‘taken over by the fear’, the more you will experience his peace.
Peace does not come from money, riches, success, promotion, clothes or diamonds. It comes from living under the rule of Jesus in justice and righteousness, following his example of rich generosity.
Lord, I worship you, the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Help me to follow your example of generosity and find the path to true riches, honour and life.
‘Train children in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not turn from it.’
I’m so grateful to everyone who’s invested their time, love and prayers in our children. Never underestimate the importance of your time spent with children – whether as a parent, a children’s worker or teacher. Your investment will reap a huge dividend. Your teaching and example will help to build people of faith and character.
Verse of the Day
‘… excel in this race of giving’ (2 Corinthians 8:7).
Lily Allen, 'The Fear', It's Not Me, It's You, (Regal, 2009).
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.