Monday, October 24, 2011

Reshaped by Generosity

Lately I have been doing some thinking about what it means to have a healthily, God’s kingdom-orientation towards things like money and stuff. Scripture is clear that there is more to life than wealth, stuff, prestige and even physical comfort.  As people who are Christ followers, our lives are to be oriented differently; we are to shape our lives around God’s priorities rather than what our culture deems as important.  However, acknowledging this in theory is different than living it.  If I am honest, I struggle with wanting to hold tightly to the things that I have and my heart lusts for things that are clearly luxuries. I find security in my comforts, I covet what I do not have and make plans to attain things that I really do not need. It all sounds so shallow and is contrary to what I know about Jesus.

But then the offering plate gets passed on Sunday and something sinks in. Perhaps one of reasons why God asks his people to give a tithe or an offering is because he wants to help his people come to have a different perspective on wealth. Sure, it is a great way to support a church, charity or a person in a tangible way, but perhaps there more to it than fundraising.  In the Old Testament God asked his people to give the first and the best of what they earned/grew/raised. The New Testament isn’t quite as strict about how much someone is supposed to give, but the expectation is still that God’s people give generously.

I think that part of the point is that the act of giving shapes our attitude about what we have. The reality is that when we are generous with what we have, we are acknowledging that there is more to life than hoarding wealth. God’s requirements require that we hold loosely the things that we have and lead us to acknowledge that they came from God in the first place. When we give God the first crack at our pay check (no matter what the size) and not from what is left over, we are taking active steps to allow God to change our priorities from being “us-focused” to “God-focused.” For example, when we are faithful in giving instead of holding back so we can go on vacation, or to even pay down some debt, and instead give it to God, we are giving him priority over our wants and acknowledging that we are relying on him for our needs as well. Indeed, giving is one way that we acknowledge who God is and that we submit our hopes and dreams to him.  

A Christians we are called to be different.  Jesus invites us to make our lives about more than accumulating stuff and to instead enter into a life that is rich with meaning and significance. One of the ways that we can be different and fight off the values of a culture that place priority on self, wealth and success, is to practice being generous with whatever we have. May this define who we are.