Tag Archives: generosity

Moral proximity and the cry of the global poor

“Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor

will also cry out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13

This is a distressing verse in the age of globalization. In this age we are all aware, not only of those who are poor within our families or neighborhoods, but of the countless who suffer in poverty all around the world. Furthermore, we are all within technical reach of many of those in poverty and most of us have the means with which to provide for them out of a first-world abundance. I know someone who sponsors one of those poor children through Compassion International. This is all well and good, but this person also has the means to sponsor two, three, or even ten more children, assuming they were willing to sacrifice their standard of living or cut back on retirement savings. Does this person have a moral obligation to do this? They know the need (“hear the cry”), have the financial means, and have the technological capability, to do it. What justification could be provided for not doing more? And, at what point would such an obligation stop? Would it continue so long as one person has abundance and another has need? In other words, as long as there is someone in poverty, is abundance morally inexcusable?

These are exactly the sort of questions which John Schneider addresses in his book The Good of Affluence (and are much broader than I will attempt to address in this short post).

One way to answer this is to consider the principle of “moral proximity.” This principle, according to Schneider, “states simply that our moral obligations in economic life are greater or lesser in proportion to their moral proximity to us.” This is similar, says Schneider, to the Roman Catholic principle of subsidiarity “which means that social problems ought to be handled first by the people and agencies nearest in location to them rather than by remote ones.”

What does this “moral proximity” look like? In ancient Israel it meant Israelites had primary duties first to their own families and then tribes and then to their religious community as Jews. They had no material moral obligation to those outside of Israel but, in keeping the laws of Israel (which included instructions for caring for the poor) were to serve as “a light to the nations.”

The same basic principle seems to be evident in the New Testament. Here believers again have a primary obligation to care for their families. Then they have obligations within the family of believers. And then they have obligations within the broader fabric of society.

So how does this apply to the global poor? Schneider agrees that wealthy Christians do have an obligation, “but not obligations of the ultimate sort that influential writers judge they do.” What exactly this looks like Schneider addresses later in the book (which I haven’t gotten to yet) but at least this obligation is of a different sort than that which we have to people within our direct obligations (i.e., family) or close obligations (i.e., our local congregations or close friends).

Still, I think it is in keeping with this tone of Proverbs 21:13 that those with means who “hear the cry of the poor” at least feel a certain sort of moral weight. Schneider later states, in commenting on Amos, that “we cannot be righteous unless we have a proper sense of grief” (and thus action) about the material suffering that is going on around us. It would be a tragedy if we used a principle like moral proximity as a way to “shut our ears” or to justify our own selfish hearts. Still, this principle is helpful for me to understand my obligations, and why some are primary and some secondary.

Book Recommendation:

The Good of Affluence: Seeking God in a Culture of Wealth

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“for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt”

Updated 11/19/2015

I wrote this post well before the Syrian refugee crisis was front page news, but now that everybody and their brother is posting on this same topic, I feel somewhat compelled to revisit what I have said. I have added an “update” section on the bottom to explain how I feel this does/does not apply to the Syrian refugee crisis.

Original Post

As I was doing my concordance search on the word “foreigner” in the Bible I discovered a very interesting link to being a foreigner and welcoming foreigners. If you’ve been following my blog recently you’ll know that I have been a little occupied with the idea that as Christians we are foreigners and strangers. We are sojourners and exiles.

This identity is not unique to the New Testament church. The first of the sojourners and exiles are found in the Old Testament: Abraham, Moses, Daniel. Israel itself was a nation of foreigners and strangers. They arrived in Egypt as foreigners by God’s plan. When they became too big a threat to Egyptian rule, God rescued them from slavery and they went into a long period of exile/sojourn in the desert. When they finally arrived in the Promised Land under Joshua they were finally “home”, though they would once again experience exile in Babylon because of the judgment of God.

But even when they were home, when they found themselves as the citizens of the land that God had given them, they were continually instructed to remember that they were at one point the strangers and foreigners. And this sense of identity led to an important ethical conclusion – remember the foreigner among you.

This ethical concern for the foreigners and strangers in codified in the laws of the Pentateuch. First, there are commands to simply do no harm. “Do not mistreat the foreigner among you.” (Exod 22:21, 23:9, Lev 19:33). These commands are specifically given with the encouragement to the Israelites to remember their own historical identity. “Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice… Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there. That is why I commanded you this” (Deut 24:17). Then there are the commands which explicitly state the same laws should apply equally to native-born and foreigners alike. In other words, Israel is supposed to apply a basic principle of justice to all without showing favoritism.

But the laws given to Israel in regards to the foreigners go beyond prohibitions against mistreatment. The “gleaning” laws demonstrate a specific concern for the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow (Lev 19:10, Deut 24:19, 21). In Israel these individuals would have been especially vulnerable to poverty and injustice so they required special care from the entire community. Once again, these commands are given with the instruction to “remember that you were slaves in Egypt,” that is, you were once foreigners yourselves.

Perhaps the fullest expression of this idea is given in Deuteronomy 10:17-19:

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. “

This passage is striking because it reveals the heart of God. He shows no partiality. He loves the foreigner and he demonstrates that love by providing for their basic needs. The Israelites are to extend that same love. That is, they are to love the foreigners among them as well, caring for their basic needs. Here the command is to love (a matter of the heart) and it is based on two principles: God’s own love and Israel’s historical identity.

So what does this mean for the church of exiles and foreigners? There is a temptation for a church, as it begins to feel more and more then sense that it does not belong, to become inward focused and protectionist. There is a temptation to focus solely on caring for one’s own inner group. There was probably a temptation for Israel, especially given its history of military animosity towards its neighbors, to view all foreigners as suspect and to therefore deny them justice. That might be why Israel is so often warned against such unfairness (see Deut 26:19 where denial of justice to the foreigner is connected to a covenant curse). At a minimum, then, this means that the church needs to resist this same urge. Being foreigners and strangers does not mean that we lose a concern for those who are different from us or that we take up a position of distrust or animosity to them.

On the positive side of things these commands remind us that God is concerned for the socially and economically vulnerable and that we should extend that concern. They remind us that basic empathy matters. Do you feel like a foreigner? Then keep that in mind when you see someone else in a similar position. Practically, this could mean befriending the friendless, defending the person being bullied, showing hospitality, graciously welcoming newcomers to church, or the greeting the new residents of your neighborhood. Just like for Israel, I think it means showing generosity to the poor and a concern for basic issues of fairness and justice.

I was listening to an interview on NPR where the interviewer was discussing Islamic radicalization in Great Britain. The big concern for Britain is that there are many Islamic youth who feel like they are not “full citizens.” This sense of not belonging in that particular community leads to radicalization and, ultimately, to acts of terrorism. It would be a great tragedy if there was the same movement in Christian communities! But the Bible points us in the exact opposite direction. The status of “exile” and “foreigner” needs to point us to love and concern for others. After all, we may be foreigners on earth but we are citizens of heaven and it is our mission, through the ministry of reconciliation, to draw others into that same citizenship.

Updated 11/19/2015 – How does this apply to the Syrian refugee crisis?

First, I want to stress that the primary application for these texts is for the Church, not the State. I find it somewhat ironic that many Christians who would ridicule conservatives for applying 2 Chronicles 7:14 to the United States when it should apply to the Church, are so quick to make a blanket application of Old Testament law (in a theocracy!) to U.S. policy. Both texts apply to the people of God, and not directly to the secular state.

In regards to the refugee crisis (or just basic immigration policy, for that matter) we should apply these texts first to the church, with secondary applications (as citizens of an earthly kingdom) to government policy. For implications for the church, look up three paragraphs.

Second, I do believe there is some application for secular governments. The role of the secular government is to establish justice. This means (a) protecting its citizenry from evildoers/punishing evildoers (see Romans 13) and (b) doing what is within its scope of responsibility for caring for the destitute. That second point could certainly be contested, and I won’t fully defend it here, but I do want to point out the close connection between the laws listed above and principles of basic justice (i.e., doing no harm, equal protection under law, etc.). The pattern of connecting care for the especially vulnerable with justice (and not just charity) is established well throughout Scripture. For more on this see Tim Keller’s book Generous Justice. It’s natural for Christians to want both forms of justice from their government. And the challenge for the secular State is to balance between competing goods. The arguments just aren’t as simple as “keep them all out” and “people who want to limit the refugees, or take a pause, are heartless jerks.”

A Christian friend of mine posted a provocative status on Facebook which actually illustrates this quite well. He stated “If Obama allows Syrian refugees in we will house a family in our home. Who is with me?” This is a rather radical proposal, but I really like the heart behind it. First, it’s an observation that its the government who decides who to let in and when. The government is going to make this decision based on its competing interests. Second, though, there’s a call to the church to take an active role in caring for those strangers if or when they arrive. At that point the church has the opportunity to fully realize its role and take the above passages to heart.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to help refugees now, Syrians or otherwise. One such organization doing this good work is Samaritan’s purse. I was touched by this video back in early October, and it’s worth another “share.”

10 Characteristics of a Gospel-Produced Church

When we in evangelical circles (especially Baptist) think about the question “What does the preaching of the gospel produce?” we tend to think of it primarily in terms of individual decisions to follow Jesus. This is, of course, a perfectly proper way to answer that question. When Peter preached his first sermon at Pentecost we see that about 3,000 individuals accepted Peter’s call, repented, and were baptized. By the work of the Holy Spirit the preaching of the gospel led to 3,000 new converts to Christianity (see Acts 2:41).

However, it is also worth noting that the preaching of the gospel didn’t just produce individual Christians. It produced (and produces) a church, a community of believers. It is not only true that 3,000 souls accepted, repented, and were baptized. The text also says that they “were added to their number that day.” What follows is a description of this budding community.

I am preparing to teach on Acts 2:42-47 and its “parallel passage” in 4:32-45. From these two passages I have compiled a list of ten characteristics of a gospel-produced church. This is by no means a complete list – a lot would need to be added. Nor, do I think, was it Luke’s intent to list exactly ten characteristics. Nevertheless, I do think these 10 characteristics are true to the text, and true characteristics of a gospel-produced and gospel-driven church.

  1. Made up of followers of Jesus. The “they” in 2:42 is “those who accepted [Peter’s] message and were baptized” in 2:41. This should probably go without saying but church membership is for those who have already committed themselves to the Lord. At our church this is also one of the reasons we require baptism before church membership.
  2. Devoted to the apostle’s teaching. What follows in 2:42 is a list of four things which the early church devoted themselves to. The first is “the apostle’s teaching.” What was the apostle’s teaching? I can only imagine it was all about the life of Jesus, but I’m sure there was a heavy dose of the Old Testament in there, too. In other words, the early church were a people of the Word; living and written.
  3. Devoted to “communion.” The next two in the list are “fellowship” and “the breaking of bread.” Some commentators see this as simply referring to sharing common meals. Others as a specific reference to the Lord’s Supper. A third group sees these two ideas as combined in the New Testament. I tend to agree with this third group. The “Lord’s Supper,” as it is often called, has another name: Communion. It is called Communion because there is a strong “community” aspect to the remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection. We are reconciled to God through Jesus’ death and we are also reconciled to one another. We are united to Christ through his death, and as a direct result we are united with the rest of the Body of Christ. The fellowship which the early church was devoted to was not just small talk, but a deep and abiding unity.
  4. Devoted to prayer. The final in the list states that the early church was devoted “to prayer.” Indeed, prayer is one of the major themes of Acts. One of the primary reasons why the seven deacons were chosen was to free up the apostles for time in prayer.
  5. Filled with awe. 2:43 states that “everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.” “Everyone” here might refer to people even outside the church, but it certainly also refers to those within it. I don’t think this only applies to the early church. I may not experience miracles on the scale of the early church, but I still have plenty of reason to be filled with awe for the power of God.
  6. Devoted to one another. Verse 44 states that “all the believers were together and had everything in common.” What follows is a description of the generosity that marked the early church (see point #7) but I have separated this characteristic out because I believe that the generosity described next, and more fully in 4:32-35 was the fruit of something more fundamental in the community – love, unity, and mutual devotion. Before describing the believers’ generosity, 4:32 states that “all the believers were one in heart and mind.” This points to both their unity of faith and their deep devotion to one another.
  7. Marked by generosity. From this devotion sprang generosity. “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” and “no one claimed that of their possessions was their own, but shared everything they had.” Indeed, this generosity was seen as evidence of the power of God in their midst: “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them” (4:33b-34a). This passage can be somewhat controversial, but needlessly so. I want to caution against two extremes. The first extreme would be to say that this description of the early church has no bearing on us for today. The argument states that they were in a unique scenario and believed, erroneously, that Christ’s return would happen any moment. The second extreme would come from those who believe that the church in Acts lays out some kind of communal church life that should be carried out through all generations and situations. I think both extremes misunderstand the descriptive nature of Acts. The church was in a unique cultural and historical situation, of course, but the values they exhibited – unity, devotion, and generosity – are meant to be carried out in every cultural setting.
  8. Met for regular worship. Verse 46 states that the church met together daily in them temple courts and in one another’s homes. These meetings were not just for the purpose of fellowship, but of worship. I’m not sure if the “daily” aspect of worship needs to continue, but certainly regular participation in corporate worship ought to be the norm.
  9. Praised God with sincere hearts. This worship was carried out “with glad and sincere hearts” and resulted in the disciples praising God. Musical worship from a sincere heart (Paul and Silas are found singing a hymn in prison) is a mark of a gospel-produced church.
  10. Produced visible fruit. Finally we are told that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The church saw visible fruit and that fruit was daily conversions and baptisms into the church. We need to be cautious here. Gospel-fruit takes many forms and it comes in different seasons. Sometimes fruit is conversions or church growth. Sometimes it is a community of love (see the fruit of the Spirit). In chapter 4 the fruit of the power of God is generosity. After the disciple’s pray the fruit of the power of God is boldness in proclaiming the gospel. We can’t control the form of the fruit, nor its season, nor can we predict it. However, I am confident that the gospel produces fruit and a church that is alive with the gospel will see that fruit. It may not be a promise, but this principle holds for everything living: “living things grow.”

After I put together this list I put together to assessments. The first is a church assessment. Is our church a gospel produced church?

  • Are we made up of followers of Jesus?
  • Are we devoted to the word of God?
  • Are we devoted to fellowship and the Lord’s Supper?
  • Are we devoted to prayer?
  • Are we filled with awe for the power of God?
  • Are we devoted to unity in the body of Christ?
  • Are we marked by generosity?
  • Do we meet regularly for worship?
  • Do we praise God with sincere hearts?
  • Is there identifiable fruit coming from our ministry?

The second assessment is a personal assessment. Do I have the characteristics of a gospel-produced believer?

  • Am I a follower of Jesus?
  • Am I devoted to the word of God?
  • Am I devoted to fellowship and the Lord’s Supper?
  • Am I devoted to prayer?
  • Am I filled with awe for the power of God?
  • Am I devoted to unity in the body of Christ?
  • Am I generous with my material resources?
  • Do I commit to regular corporate worship?
  • Do I praise God with a sincere heart?
  • Is there visible fruit in my life?

Both these lists are convicting to me, though in different ways. I invite you to examine yourself.

Book Recommendation
Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City

Ice Bucket Challenge (5 Things that Make me Uncomfortable)

I was nominated for and participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge. It was fun though my wife was a little too enthusiastic when putting the ice in the bucket. Later this week I’ll be donating some of our money towards research that contributes to the fight against ALS. On the whole I see the Ice Bucket Challenge as a net positive in the world. It’s ridiculous, but it’s mostly good. There are, however, a few things that make me uncomfortable about this cultural phenomenon. I’m probably being a contrarian but hey, what’s a blog without a little contrarianism, right?

First, I have heard that some of the major ALS groups fund embryonic stem cell research. Being pro-life, I see this as the destruction of life. The ends don’t justify the means. For that reason I won’t be donating money blindly. I will still contribute specifically to ALS research, but I will be looking for a way to do so that doesn’t also harm human lives.

Second, the ice bucket challenge is based more on peer pressure and guilt than on compassion. The premise is that if you’re nominated, you have to do it and you have to nominate other people. If you’re not nominated, you don’t do it (with the exception of one of my friends). This utilitarian approach works in our society – but as it pertains to the purposes of the heart – it’s a less than ideal reason to support a cause. Why did I do the ice bucket challenge? Honestly the three biggest reasons were (1) to encourage the friend who nominated me, (2) to join in the fun, and (3) to try to convince a former professor to make good on his mock-twitter-promise of doing the challenge while doing the macarena (sp?). None of these are “bad” reasons, per se, but they’re not the best reason to give, and they’re not sustainable.

Third, the ice bucket challenge encourages people to put their “righteousness” on display. The process is all about publicity – publicity for the cause, yes, but also self-publicity. I felt a bit like a Pharisee posting that video online.

Fourth, this meme:

Truth

Truth

This is why I am also sending an additional contribution to Compassion International.

Fifth – really a culmination of the first four – the ice bucket might lead some to a self-congratulatory attitude. I’m not saying this doesn’t support a good cause but let’s not give ourselves too much credit here. It’s a fun, ridiculous, cultural phenomenon. That’s about it.

I only nominated one person in my video and even that nomination was mostly a joke. I meant to say in the video the additional line: “I nominate anyone whose conscience leads them to give to this or any other cause.” If you want to give, give. Give to a cause that you feel good about and that you want to give to regardless of whether someone tells you to dump water on your head. Give from your heart and then don’t make a show of it. Give in secret and your Father will reward you in secret. I got my reward for my challenge which basically amounted to a handful of Facebook “likes.” True generosity which the Lord accepts as pure is that which is done from the right motives and that which is done without the trumpet blast of the Facebook post. If you do the ice bucket challenge, that’s fine. It’s not wrong, just see it for what it really is – dumping ice cold water on your head for the amusement of your friends.

Contrarian out.

Money has nothing (and everything) to do with salvation

Yesterday I preached on the Christian’s relationship with money. Specifically, I compared hoarding and generosity and the relative wisdom of each. The rich fool who hoards on earth is met with judgment while the generous store up for themselves treasures in heaven. (See Luke 12:13-21; 22-34 and 1 Timothy 6:9-10; 18-19)

Some could unfortunately and incorrectly interpret these passages to mean that our salvation depends on what we do with our money. So I want to clearly state salvation has nothing to do with money. We’re saved by grace through faith in Jesus alone. You can’t “give” your way into heaven. Generosity does not atone for sin. The poor have no advantage of the rich or the rich over the poor.

But, if I’m going to take Jesus’ teaching seriously on the matter I must admit that salvation has everything to do with moneyThis was certainly true for the rich fool (Luke 18:18-19), Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-30), and the early Christians (Acts 2:42-47). I don’t mean that salvation depends on what we do with our money but that what we do with our money clearly reveals the location of our hearts.

When we’re saved we switch allegiances. We turn from serving a plethora of false gods to serving the one true God and Him alone. God is a jealous God who demands our complete allegiance. He won’t share his throne in our lives. Money is one of those potential gods we set up in God’s place. This is why Jesus says  “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Luke 16:13)

Salvation has everything to do with money because salvation reshapes our attitude toward money. We move from the position of ownership (it’s mine, I do what I want), to stewardship (it’s God’s, he uses as he wants). We move from serving money to serving God. we change from people who pursue their own temporary kingdom to those who seek first the eternal kingdom of God.

Most importantly, we begin to develop the mind of Christ who was willing to become poor (literally) so that we might become rich in spiritual blessings (2 Corinthians 8:9). The atonement of Christ and his example empowers us to hold loosely our material possessions so that we might lay hold of life that is truly life (1 Timothy 6:19).

Wisdom: The ability to see around the bend

It’s that time of year again.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to spend a couple hours doing my best to teach a room full of High School Seniors the “Biblical Principles of Personal Finance.” This will be my fourth year.

We’ll have a lot to discuss: A cursory view of what the Bible teaches, some notes on saving, avoiding debt, tithing to your church, planning for your retirement, budgeting, and living generously. But, one of the main things I want the students to learn is this: Wisdom is the ability to see around the bend.

Wisdom (with money and in other areas of life) is the ability to see around the bend. Imagine that you are standing at a fork in the road. Down each path you can see about twenty yards before the path turns. You can’t see what’s beyond the bend. All you have to make your decision is what’s in front of you. Sometimes that’s what life feels like. We can’t see the long term consequences of our actions so we just pick the one that looks the best the earliest.

Unless we could see around the bend.

Biblical wisdom gives us what we need to see around the bend, the ability to see the long term consequences of our actions.

The fool sees the short term gains of debt, but doesn’t see that slavery waits (Prov 22:7)

The fool tries to make money dishonestly, and fails to realize that whatever he makes won’t last (Prov 10:2)

The fool thinks doing nothing is preferable to hard work, but doesn’t see poverty approaching (Prov 10:4)

In contrast, the wise person is willing to work diligently for a time in order to build wealth (Prov 10:4)

This is also why generosity is ultimately an act of wisdom. The biggest “bend” we face in life is the one we face at the end: death. This is the toughest bend to see around, but by God’s grace we can.

What made the rich man a fool in Luke 12? It wasn’t his inability to plan for the future – he had a good retirement plan (12:18-19). It was his inability to see how his life on earth affected his eternal destiny. God declares of him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded of you. Then who will get what you prepared for yourself?”(12: 20) Wealth won’t help you at the judgment (Prov 11:4).

In contrast, Jesus tells his disciples to act wisely, to look around the bend.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.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. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)

This is the same instruction that Paul gives to Timothy:

17 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. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In 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. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

I hope the kids learn to look around the bend, both as they plan for their futures in this life, and as they look to the next. I hope they learn to put their trust in the giver of all things, to be rich in good deeds, and to put their money toward things that matter for eternity.

The Wisdom of Generosity

This week I will be teaching a special “Senior Seminar” at the school where my wife teaches on the “Biblical Principles of Personal Finance.” I’m not a financial guru but I am a pastor who likes Dave Ramsey, which apparently is enough to qualify me for this particular seminar. I’ve taught the class a few years in a row now and one of the key ideas I try to get across is that it is wise to be generous.

I’ve always been taught that it is good to be generous and it is kind to be generous but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that it is wise to be generous. When I think of “wise” things to do with your money I think about planning, budgeting, saving for a rainy day, being thrifty, etc. I usually don’t add giving to the poor to that list.

The realization that it is wise to be generous came as I was looking up verses on what the Bible says about how we should use our money. I soon discovered that many of the verses on the topic of generosity are in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a book of wisdom.

Consider a few of the following verses from Proverbs:

“One person gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” (11:24)

“A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (11:25)

“The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.” (22:9)

“Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.” (28:27)

But the voice of wisdom and generosity doesn’t stop in the book of Proverbs.

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. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In 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. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Furthermore, Jesus declares the opposite of generosity, hoarding, to be exceedingly foolish as seen in the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21.

How is it Wise to be Generous?

But how exactly is being generous wise? Here are a few reasons.

First, it is wise to be obedient to God. The fact that it is kind and good to be generous means it’s also wise. Biblical wisdom starts with obedience to God.

Second, it is wise to value the right things. A person who thinks something worthless is valuable is considered a fool. Those who are able to recognize the true worth of something are wise. Generosity is a way we value the right things. As 1 Timothy exhorts us, “In this way [generosity] 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.”

Third, it is wise to take the long view. The wise person can look beyond her immediate circumstances and see how her decisions today have a long term impact on the future. Saving is wise for this exact reason – you defer gratification now for the long-term benefit. Generosity works in about the same way, only it’s not just a long-term perspective you’re after, but an eternal perspective.

For more on that, check out this excellent video by Francis Chan. His analogy of the rope as many implications, but I think one of the main ones is its implication for how we use our money in this life.