I remember doing a paper in college on the brokenness of the United States’ Social Security system. All the research I had done showed that the system was upside down and would not be able to sustain the retiring Boomers. It was recommended that Xers and younger should invest in their retirement through 401k’s and other means. Because of all that, we each have a mindset of doing what we can now to make sure we have enough in our former years. Even this week, I spent a few hours researching stocks, their performance, their diversification and ability to grow over time. I think it’s good to have a plan for the retirement years, but I’m left to wonder how much time, effort and energy do I spend planning for eternity.
When compared to eternity, a lifetime here is nothing more than a nanosecond. How much more should we be investing in the afterlife? In Matthew 6:20-21, Jesus said, “Instead, stockpile heavenly treasures for yourselves that cannot be stolen and will never rust, decay, or lose their value. For your heart will always pursue what you value as your treasure” (TPT). That last verse should have each of us looking at what we’re pursuing in this life. Where are your energies focused? Are they for things that matter now or for eternity? Again, I think it’s wise to plan for your financial future here, but it’s critical to plan for your eternity there. God’s economy is different than ours and how you invest in it is different too.
You and I must value the same things that God values if we’re going to store up treasures in Heaven. God has always valued and cared for people, especially the members of society we seem to ignore. He values giving justice to those who need it, but don’t have a voice to get it. He values mercy and grace, specifically to those who don’t deserve it. He also giving of our possessions more than hoarding them. Finally, later on in this chapter, Jesus reminds us that we must seek His Kingdom first before we seek our own. I believe when we put His priorities above our own, we store up treasures in Heaven. You can’t check your heavenly bank account through an app, but you can measure it through lives changed.
Photo by N. on Unsplash
I love the story in Luke where Jesus was watching the offering box as people gave. Many people gave large amounts and people took notice. Then there was a widow woman who walked up. She grabbed two small coins and put them in the offering. Jesus exclaimed that this poor widow had given more than everyone else. Confused, the disciples wondered how. Jesus then explained that others gave out of their abundance, but she gave from her need. She didn’t find an excuse not to give because she was generous.
God loves it when we learn to give generously. I say “learn” because for most of us, it’s not natural to be generous. We’ve worked hard for our money and value it, but that is often what makes us stingy. When we are stingy, we forget that God is our source of income. We think of ourselves as the provider and therefore want to only give when we have left over money. But if we view God as our provider, we see the money as His and are free to give it away.
Deuteronomy 15:10 says, “Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers GOD, your God’s, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures” (MSG). When we give generously, it triggers God’s blessing in every area of our life. It tells God that you no longer see yourself as the source of your income, and that means He can trust you with more.
In Luke 6:38, Jesus put it this way, “Give and it shall be given unto you.” He went on to say that the same measure you use to give, will be used to give back to you. When we are generous, God is generous. You don’t have to have a lot to give a lot in God’s eyes. He can take a small gift and multiply it so there’s left overs (see the boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish). We have to get out of the scarcity mindset and into the abundant one. Give freely and spontaneously. It’s not your money anyway – it’s God’s!
I’m a proponent of paying it forward. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, it’s that you do good deeds for others, especially those who can’t pay you back. Instead of them paying you back, you ask them to do something good for someone else when they have the ability. I’ve been the recipient of many of these deeds growing up. I had never heard of the concept of paying it forward until one couple who blessed me tremendously told me I could pay them back by doing something for someone else one day.
I’ve never forgotten what they did, and have tried to be generous to others as a result. What they did was plant a seed of generosity into my life, and over time that seed has become a tree. When you think of an orange seed, it doesn’t just produce an orange. It produces a tree capable of producing many seasons of oranges that are capable themselves of many trees. Seeds are not a one for one thing. They’re a one for many thing. They take root, grow and continuously produce.
Proverbs 11:30 says, “The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life” (NLT). The writer knew about paying it forward all those centuries ago. He understood that when you bless those who can’t pay you back, you plant seeds that grow into trees and they become a tree of life. Most all of us need help at some point in our lives when we are incapable of paying it back. Don’t turn away the seeds that someone else wants to plant into your life. One day, that tree they planted will be needed to produce for someone else.
This time of year, there’s one question that gets asked every day, “What are you getting for Christmas?” We have kids make lists of everything they want and then have them send it to Santa. Or we take them to the mall to have them sit on Santa’s knee so they can tell him in person. Somehow, we’ve taken a holiday that was about giving and have turned it into holiday about getting. What if we started asking people, “What are you giving this year?”
As I watched a friend give a Christmas party with gifts, games, food and fun to a hundred under privileged kids, the scripture that says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” came to mind. I watched her hand each child a gift they had wanted and their parents probably couldn’t afford. I think her smile was larger than any child’s because she was the one giving. That’s what this season, and I think this life is all about. Giving.
In the beginning, God gave man he breath of life. He gave us everything we need to survive. Millennia later, He gave His only begotten Son to us so that we might have eternal life. When He was born, the wise men gave Him gifts. These gifts were sacrificial. They cost these men not just their money, but their time and effort as well to deliver them. That night in Bethlehem, they learned the blessing of giving.
This season, don’t let it be about getting. Take time to enjoy the giving. Look beyond your own family and give to someone else in need. You never know what a blessing it will be to them. When you see what your obedience does for others, you will find your own blessing. Luke 6:38 says, “Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands — all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you” (GNB). This Christmas, give generously.