By Peter Amsterdam
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If we develop the attitude that the accumulation of wealth and possessions is necessary to our happiness, and that becomes our focus, we begin to give our material goods first place in our lives instead of God, who rightly deserves it. Paul called covetousness idolatry, because it takes the place in our heart that belongs to God alone (Colossians 3:5).
Money and possessions are not evil in themselves. The eighth commandment, “you shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15), and the tenth, which tells us not to covet what belongs to our neighbor (Exodus 20:17), both indicate that private property is sanctioned. However, when we place undue importance on material things, our desire for possessions and money becomes our priority, which Jesus clearly warned against:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:19–21, 24).
When our possessions or the inordinate desire for more occupy first place in our heart, when our happiness hinges on material things, we need God’s help to reverse course, so we can focus on how He has already blessed us. We may want to ask ourselves, “Have I set my mind on earthly instead of heavenly things? Do I trust in finances for security instead of God’s love and promises? Do I have an inordinate desire for money and material things?” It helps to remind ourselves that everything we have ultimately belongs to God and is His gift to us, and that He is generous.
By cultivating generosity, we focus on storing up treasure in heaven (Luke 18:22). It also helps to remember that life is short and when we die we leave behind all of our possessions, status, titles, and wealth. Neither our material possessions nor our status will ever fully satisfy us, as true satisfaction is found only in God. Jesus, when offered the kingdoms of the world and all of its wealth, rejected the offer, as He had no intention of turning away from what was most valuable—loving and serving His Father (Matthew 4:8–10).
When we think of God in the context of generosity, we realize just how extravagant His giving is. We see His generosity in giving His Son to die for us so that we can experience forgiveness and eternal life. He gives us salvation as a gift: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).
He is generous with His grace: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7–8).
We also see God’s generosity every day in the world around us, in the natural beauty of creation, the magnificent colors, beautiful sunsets, the melody of a bird’s chirping, and so much more. And then there’s heaven: “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
When we understand that God is generous by nature, that all He has given us is both valuable and undeserved, then in our desire to be like Him, we too should be generous with others.
Another key to generosity is having the right understanding of ownership—recognizing that as the creator of all things, ultimately God owns everything, and what He has entrusted to us is under our stewardship (Job 41:11). Even though we may earn the money to purchase things, it’s the Lord who ultimately gives us our life, abilities, and everything we have, which enables us to do what we do. This concept can be seen in Deuteronomy 8:10, where the Israelites were instructed to thank God for the food that they grew, as God was the one who gave them the land, the means by which they were able to grow food. Though they worked to produce the food, God provided the means.
When we accept that we are stewards of what God has blessed us with and that He is the ultimate example of generosity, we’ll want to align our attitude about giving with His. Let’s look at some of what Scripture tells us about God’s outlook on giving.
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed (Proverbs 19:17).
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you (Luke 6:38).
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).
We must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Many of us don’t have much money, but giving isn’t limited to money. We can generously use our God-given abilities, time, talents, gifts, as well as finances when we have them, to help others. While we don’t all have the same amount of material goods or time to spare, we all can find ways to sacrificially carve out some time for the benefit of others. We each have some God-given gifts, talents, and abilities to offer, so we might want to consider giving some of them back to Him through using them to help others in some way.
As the stewards of all He has given us, when we use our gifts, talents, skills, and finances in alignment with God’s generosity, we honor Him. While giving of our time or our finances or our God-given gifts or skills can be a sacrifice, Scripture teaches that those who make this sacrifice are rewarded in this life and the life to come. “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:18–19).
Of course, some people are able to give more than others, as they have more. The blessings for those who give aren’t connected to the amount they give. Jesus made this point when He “looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’” (Luke 21:1–4).
Developing generosity calls us to believe that we are stewards of our material belongings—not owners—and that we are expected to be good stewards of what is entrusted into our care. As stewards, we are to look to the Lord for His direction regarding how to use what He’s blessed us with. This means asking Him how He wants us to use what we have for His glory.
We can find much of that direction in Scripture. We know we are to provide for our family (1 Timothy 5:8), to do what we can to help those in need, to give to the Lord, to live within our means, to be content, and to be prayerful. We’re to trust God to provide for us and to thank Him whether we are abased or abounding (Philippians 4:12).
When we are thankful to the Lord, it shows Him that we recognize His goodness and faithfulness to provide and care for us. It tells Him that we know that we are totally dependent on Him, and that all that we have comes from His hand. When we are grateful to Him, we acknowledge His majesty, His generosity, His love and His care for us.
When writing the Colossians about some of the fundamentals of living their faith, Paul included thankfulness: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6–7).
Gratitude is an integral part of our walk with God. Sadly, we sometimes don’t acknowledge and thank God for our blessings. It’s easy to get used to our blessings, or even to not consider God’s hand in them. We must put in the effort to make ourselves much more aware of the abundance of God’s blessings in our lives by developing the habit of recognizing our blessings, both big and small, and regularly praising and thanking Him for them; “giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
Originally published January 2017. Adapted and republished October 2023. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
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