Rich generosity & overflowing joy

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 33-34, 2 Corinthians 8, Psalm 56

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 

2 Corinthians 8:1-4

When we are walking with God on a daily basis, truly seeking after his will in the world, asking him to open our eyes to the needs of those around us, and joyfully obeying promptings of the Spirit; it is impossible not to see the extreme need in our world that the Church is able to meet if we are willing!

When this is the default position of our heart, we realize that helping those in need brings infinitely more joy than the latest and greatest toy that our consumerist society has convinced us that we need.

Whether in a time of abundance or a time of poverty, we give joyfully.

As a Christian parent, I hope that this is instilled in our children as well. I am so proud of our oldest daughter Elizabeth for so many reasons. She is an amazing kid. I think one of the things I love most is her spirit of generosity. She has, unprompted by us, donated her last two of birthdays to different charities. Just last week she asked me if she could donate her 10th birthday to Able Eyes, a non-profit that works to provide a virtual accessibility tool for individuals with disabilities.

Her birthday isn’t for 8 more months. I love this. I gave her a giant hug and told her how much I appreciate the compassionate heart God has given her.

It got me thinking, when was the last time I got excited 8 months in advance for the opportunity to donate to a cause?

(Side note: If you feel compelled, go donate to Able Eyes! They are an amazing organization!)

I want to be more and more like Elizabeth in that way. I want to get more excited about the opportunity to donate to a cause 8 months from now than the vacation I would like to take, new technology I have been wanting, that new movie that is about to come out, etc. I want to have a spirit that overflows with joy to the point where this joy cannot help but spill over into rich generosity!

More than anything, I want to have a relationship with my heavenly father that is so deep, so rich, and so full; that it would be impossible for me to have anything other than this spirit of compassion and generosity towards his creations! I so deeply desire to chase after him daily and fully accept the unearned, over the top, never ending grace and love that he has offered freely!

If we fully accept and embrace this unearned grace and love that has been showered on us as followers of Jesus, the only natural response is radical generosity!

It is amazing to think how different our world would look if the American church today operating like the early church in Macedonia.

The world would truly be changed.

Thought to ponder

How can I be more like the church in Macedonia that Paul spoke about today?

Leaving our gleanings

Daily Readings – Leviticus 23-25, Proverbs 7, Romans 11

“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’”

Leviticus 23:22

I grew up in a Christian home and always knew that I should set aside 10% of my income as a tithe to God. However, this concept of “leaving the gleanings of our harvest” was something I had never heard about until later on in life. The very first time I became aware of the concept of “leaving the gleanings of your harvest for the poor” it dramatically impacted the way I viewed my finances as a marketplace missionary.

There are multiple times in the Bible where tithing is mentioned. This is referring to the portion of our income that belongs to God. God was clear that we are called to give back that portion to him from the first fruits of our harvest. Throughout my life I always lumped the money I would donate to churches, missionaries, and other faith based organizations together with money I donated to other charities that were doing great work with the poor and marginalized in society, but not necessarily faith based organizations. I just assumed that together, those should make up 10%.

After all, caring for the poor was part of what Jesus commanded us to do.

I don’t think this is a bad way to think by any means. In fact, I think it is quite normal. Then I learned about this concept of our “gleanings” and that they are entirely separate from our tithing. It reshaped my thinking.

Our tithing is God’s money. I once heard a Christian comedian once say that giving this 10% to God isn’t actually giving, it is simply “not stealing”! That cracked me up. I love this mindset! It is so true. God has given us everything we have and simply asked that we set aside 10% for him. That portion we should set aside without thinking, because it belongs to God.

On top of our tithe God has also called us to help the poor. We are called to leave our gleanings for the poor, orphans, and widows. This is a concept also seen back in Leviticus 19:10 and then again in Deuteronomy 24:19 and Ruth 2:2, 15.

We live in an unbelievable era of prosperity. If we have been blessed with a solid income as a marketplace missionary, we have a responsibility to not only tithe, but to also leave our gleanings. We are called to help the poor as much as we can.

Jesus did not refer to a magical 10% number when talking about giving to the poor. We saw, back in Matthew 19, that he was far more radical than that.

When it comes to giving, this has been a guiding principle for me over the last few years. God gave me everything. “Giving” 10% back is just the starting point he has called us to. Beyond that we are also called to “leave the edges of our fields unharvested for the poor and marginalized”.

I love shifting the question of, “God, how much are you calling me to give?” over to, “God, how much are you allowing me to harvest? How much are you allowing me to keep?”

When we start with remembering that it all belongs to God, it makes setting aside our tithe along with leaving our gleanings a truly joyful event!

Thought to ponder

Where might God be calling me to “leave the gleanings of my harvest” and give that money to help the poor on top of my normal tithe?

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