Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Don't be afraid to give!

"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

"And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 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. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Luke 12:15-21 & 29-34

When this passage is considered in light of Matthew 6:19-24, it is clear that there are two ways money can be invested. Money can be stored up for yourself (in other words here on this earth) or it can be stored up in heaven. No single dollar can be stored up in both places. Sure you can hedge your bets and invest a percentage in either place, but no single dollar can be invested fully in this world and in the kingdom of God at the same time. We must choose. 

In the passage above the rich man is called a fool because he loses all of his profit windfall. He stored it up for himself out of a desire to take life easy, but he did so in a foolish way because he could not guarantee  he would live long enough to enjoy it. When his life ended sooner than he thought it would, he lost all the benefit of those funds. Had he given the windfall to the Lord in some way, perhaps to feed the poor or to support the temple or to support Jesus and His disciples' ministry, then it would have been stored up in treasure for him in heaven and he would have gained an eternal reward.

At this point in this post my well-conditioned American response of financial fear crops up. (Isn't it amazing that the residents of one of the wealthiest nations in recent history have been trained to live in constant fear of poverty and to make financial decisions based on this fear!?) At this point I begin to think "What if I give too much of my money away and then I need it? I won't have it then. I could be in big trouble." Of course, Jesus knows our hearts and in the next passage He immediately addresses this fear. He begins to speak of the ravens and the lilies of the field and how God cares for them even though they do not store up treasure for themselves. Jesus tells us to seek God's kingdom first and He promises that God will provide for our basic needs like food, drink, and clothing. Then He says, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor." For Christians giving is an act of faith. When we give sacrificially it shows that we believe God's promise to give us a kingdom inheritance in heaven. It shows that we believe God will take care of our basic needs here on earth. And lastly it shows that we are willing to stand on those promises. Subsequently, when we do not give sacrificially it reveals our lack of faith.

This passage calls Christians to give sacrificially- dare I say even dangerously by the world's standards- because of our great faith in our great God. Will you give? Do you trust God? If so, then I urge you to take Jesus' words seriously. Sell some of your possessions and give to the poor.

For further consideration...
  • Proverbs 10:2213:2215:6- Some passages of Scripture teach that God will bless the righteous person with worldly wealth. How do we balance this with Jesus' words above? How much should we keep and how much should we give away? 
  • Luke 12:13-34- Read the full passage in context. What do you think this has to say about retirement?
  • Matthew 6:19-24- It is an either/or scenario. You either invest your money in the kingdom of God or in yourself. The same dollar can't be invested both places.

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