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The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor. Proverbs 22:9

Society tells us that there is blessing in riches. Oh, we don’t say it out loud of course. We say “It’s more blessed to give than receive.” We say “Money can’t buy happiness”. The reality is, businesses spend millions of dollars each year in advertising with glitzy signs, clever slogans and the famous ‘Super Bowl Ads’ all in effort to tempt our insatiable palate  which constantly screams for more!

How many times have you said, or at the very least thought, “If I win the lottery I’ll…”

The reality doesn’t match up with the practice all too often. Unfortunately, it seems to be true more in the Christian realm than I’m comfortable with. In our defense, generosity is risky. Part of the problem is defining ‘the poor’. Jesus said we’ll always have the poor with us. He commends those who give even a cup of water to the needy for their thoughtfulness.

In those honest moments we have to admit that there are many people with very little who are actually very rich in character. They are the ones who work hard to try to get ahead but just never seem to make it happen. They are the ones who struggle with a variety of health issues. They are the ones who would give you the shirt off their backs…if they had one.

generosity 10.6.15Then there are those who are, for lack of a better term, are leeches. They have discovered that they can actually make a pretty good living by taking whatever they can get. It is these people who are, in a sense, poor twice. They are the ones who take advantage of our generosity and use us. Within non-profit, and especially ministry circles, they are the ones we look out for because they will use our resources without any conscience.

The struggle of my heart is this. Was Jesus ever concerned about being taken advantage of? Did he ever scrutinize those in need as to their character? The reality is, I think not. He didn’t put any stipulations on who benefitted from his generosity.

When you give, do you give according to your perception of the need or do you give in the name of Jesus. Do you give the cup of water to the thirsty when they are capable of getting it themselves or do you hold back and judge their character.

Often, as I write this blog I try to leave us with answers. But today I must confess I have none. I see the dangers of being taken advantage of, but I see the example of a Savior who was unconcerned about motive. Ten lepers went away healed. Only one had the character to return and say thank you.

PRAYER: Father, we confess to you today that we often hold too tightly to what you’ve given us because of our penchant for determining need from a human perspective. Help us have open minds and open hearts to give to those with open hands as you would have us give. Amen.

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

There is a story in the book of Acts about a couple who got caught up in the generosity of the Christ-followers in Jerusalem. Everyone was giving away their possessions to help the poor and this couple had some land that they wanted to donate so that they would look good to the others. The problem was they weren’t quite ready to part with ALL the money from that land so they devised a plan where they would lie to the disciples and tell them they sold the land for less than they really did.

The plan backfired on the couple though and they were found out. The consequence for their deceitfulness? Death! God struck them both down in front of everyone. It was a harsh reminder then, and now, of the importance of having the right attitude about our giving. They were not required to give everything to the believers in their group and their motive was pure selfishness.

I don’t have any strong theological reason for saying this, but I wonder if one of the reasons God was so hard on this couple is because He is so generous to us. Paul writes to the church in Corinth to remind them that God gives ALL things at ALL times so we will have ALL we need to do ALL good works. In other words, God doesn’t hold back anything from His vast storehouse of blessing.

Our Heavenly Father wants to bless us generously so that we can bless others generously. We like to think that His blessing is physical and sometimes it is, but more often our blessing comes in the realm of emotional and spiritual blessing. Physical blessing fades away, but the blessing of our hearts can never be taken from us.

Sometimes it’s hard to be generous because extreme generosity is risky for us. We are afraid that if we are too generous our own needs will go unmet. We are afraid that others may misjudge our motives or take advantage of our kindness. Other times (we hate to admit this) we hold back our blessing of others because they have hurt us and we refuse to forgive them.

Our Father is generous to us without conditions and knowing we won’t always appreciate His blessing. As Christ-followers, how we bless others is a reflection of our Father’s generosity to the world around us. Be willing to practice X-treme generosity in the name of Jesus. Take some risks knowing that your kindness may not be returned and that you may be taken advantage of.

PRAYER: Dear Father in Heaven. I confess to you that often my generosity is motivated by my desire for recognition and appreciation. It’s difficult to give to others when I am not appreciated, when I’m misunderstood or when those I’m to bless have hurt me. Empower me with your Holy Spirit to bless those in my corner of the world for your sake and not mine. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Matthew 5:41

During the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth, Roman soldiers were on nearly every corner. These mighty warriors would travel from town to own bearing heavy armor and keeping order in the country. According to Roman law a soldier could randomly choose anyone to carry his shield and other equipment for one mile. Penalty for refusal to do so was death.

Today, we use this phrase in an almost heroic fashion. “Be a good person. Reach out to those who are down. Give them an extra smile or an extra tip. Let them in front of you in traffic, etc. However, in Bible days ‘going that extra mile’ had a far greater meaning. The Jewish people hated the Romans for occupying their country. They were considered the lowest of the low and for good reason. Roman soldiers weren’t known for good morals, honesty or kindness. Being forced to carry their luggage for even one mile was humiliating, time consuming and sometimes painful.

When Jesus asks us to ‘go that extra mile’ He is asking us to step completely out of our comfort zone and do something unheard of for someone who is completely undeserving and most likely ungrateful. Those who went that extra mile were rarely thanked by the Romans and most likely taunted by Jewish countrymen.

Here are some tips for ‘going that extra mile’ in our lives today:

Þ    Have a firm grasp of who you are. When you do something that others may see as humiliating and you have a firm grasp of who you are in Christ, going that extra mile becomes ministry and not drudgery. You are a child of the Living God! Nothing anyone can do to you will change your status in Him.

Þ    Minutes Not Hours. Going the extra mile is based on the needs of those around us, not on what is convenient for you. Jewish citizens had no choice but to drop everything to accommodate the Roman Soldiers. Make the needs of others around you so important that whatever you are doing can wait.

Þ    Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. The people who need us the most are not usually the wealthy, well-respected citizens in town. They are the abusers, the addicts, and the irresponsible people of questionable character. Are you willing to sit down for a cup of coffee with the person in town with the worst reputation? Jesus did…and would.

Þ    It’s not necessarily a two-way street. On occasion, if you go the extra mile, you will win over a new friend, but that isn’t likely. Reaching out to people in need can often be completely expected, ignored or unappreciated.

Jesus message is the same regardless. Reach out to those in need. Go above and beyond what is expected. Christ-followers must be willing to be inconvenienced and take the risk of being taken advantage of. Be more concerned about what you are doing in Jesus name than how you look to others. Be willing to go the extra mile in Jesus name.

PRAYER: Father God, I ask that today you would show me people in my life who need your touch. Help me to look past the exterior, unpleasantness of their situation to see a heart in need of your love. Empower me with wisdom, strength and confidence to put their needs first so that I can show them the love of Jesus in action. I thank you in advance for Your blessing. Amen.

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February 2023
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