Summary: Generosity can flow from a heart that has been transformed by God
Developing a culture of generosity doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over the long haul with consistent attention toward growing through faith which requires commitment and discipline. One way we can grow is through our giving. The generous life is something God desires for us. Giving is God’s nature but not ours. We have to be taught, coached and need living examples of generosity.
Deuteronomy 8:18 says: “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.”
People who are growing and maturing in their faith will grow and mature in their giving. They will recognize the transforming effects of Jesus Christ in every facet of their life. As Christians, our financial decisions are to be made with a different set of guiding principles. For example: We often confuse what God wants for us with what God wants from us.
The Old Testament law prescribed what God wanted from his people. It all began when Abraham in Genesis 14 brought Melchizedek 10% as recognition of what God had done for him. From that moment forward, people have recognized God's provision and responded accordingly. Unfortunately, The problem was that over time our selfishness and pride crept in. Some believed they were responsible for their good fortune and refused to give God tribute. Hence, the Law which required the gift out of ritual perverting the idea and opening the law to interpretation. As a result, even the priests' caved in on the command requirements to bring the best first fruits to God. Hence, the reason the law itself convicts of sin. If you have to go to the rule book, your heart is already not in the right place.
There is a wonderful piece of scripture from Malachi or as I like to call him Malachi (the Italian prophet), not really but it’s fun to say. It’s a scripture that speaks to this falling short of the original principle. It happens when Malachi steps forward in Nehemiah’s absence and begins to speak to people about their spiritual slippage.
Let's listen in on Malachi tell the story in chapter 1 verse 6-8
6 “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty. “It is you priests who show contempt for my name. “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ 7 “By offering defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ “By saying that the Lord’s table is contemptible. 8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the Lord Almighty.
Let’s stop for a moment and explain a bit. In that day much of the goods and services were bartered rather than using currency or dollars. You might trade livestock for grain and so forth. The law required the first of your born of your livestock and all that was produced to be given to the lord. It was to be the good stock not the damaged materials. It couldn’t be junk for God. But the priests had caved into the requests (or whining) about the hardship this produced so they allowed the people to give refuse, leftover or diseased instead of the first and best.
“Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the Lord Almighty.
After doing this, they were now clamoring for God to bless them. It’s the slacker at work wanting a raise or the child wanting his allowance without doing any work, so the prophet replies for God,
When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the Lord. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the Lord Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.
The system had been broken for some time. The sacrifices had become a duty not an honor. They were a “have to” versus a “get to.” A “Have to” tells everyone I don’t want to but I am required to but a "get to" is description a joyful activity, a life giving opportunity. In seeing the people’s heart, understanding that try as we may we will always default to our own best interest versus defaulting to the thought that God wants something for us. So God decided to make a huge statement by sending his one and only son to be a sacrifice for us. Jesus is the tangible example of God's love. Through Jesus God gives us grace and truth. He provides us and assured victory over our selfish and sinful nature.