We all like people who give. We don’t like to be people who give.
Giving hurts. Giving requires taking something that is yours and making it not-yours. And we’re all control-freaks. We like the possessive pronouns – well, at least the first-person kind. We like to own.
So the Bible’s radical calls to give things up rubs us the wrong way.
Proverbs and Ownership
The book of Proverbs talks A LOT about riches. And not money – it talks about all our material possessions and what we should do with them. One intriguing series of Proverbs involves GIVING.
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;-Proverbs 11:24-26
another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.
The people curse him who holds back grain,
but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.
Give freely – that’s the call consistently in Proverbs. It does say riches will come to those who pursue wisdom. It also says that riches come to those who are diligent. It also says that God is the one who can make rich. But what’s the point of gaining riches? Are we just using God and the way his world works to get ourselves benefit? That’s the error of the prosperity gospel and how they use Proverbs. “Honor God and He’ll make your barns burst out with STUFF!!” (Prov. 3:9-10). But they forget the other portions of Proverbs that tell us what to do with our stuff.
- Give freely -> grow all richer.
- Withhold -> have needs.
- Water -> you’ll be watered.
- Hold back grain -> people don’t like you.
- Sell it all -> blessing!
As if that’s not convicting enough, we hear…
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to do it.
Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,-Proverbs 3:27-28
tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
Literally, give people the good that they already own (see Ortlund’s commentary on Proverbs for more on this). This verse flips our obsession with owning on its head. Instead of owning anything, we realize that God has given us everything and if there is something good we can give to someone, then we cease to own that object. Thus, it’s like stealing to keep it back!
This is radical generosity. Who can measure up to this? Who can share this much of their life – and not just money, but their home, their time, their car, their tools, their skills to everyone whom they meet that needs it.
The Bible presents our stuff like this – it exists in our possession so that we can let someone else possess it. It’s open-handed ownership.
Christ the Giver
Well, the good news is – you can’t obey all these principles of sharing in Proverbs or anywhere else in Scripture. You can try and you will fail.
But someone already has. Someone has been the most generous, the most giving, the most sharing. His name is Christ.
He came to this earth and constantly gave. He gave His time so much that He turned His much-needed vacation into a feeding fest for five thousand. He gave His energy to the point that He had little time to eat. He didn’t even have a place to live – no place to lay His head. And He started out this way – in a manger!
I love this aspect of our Jesus:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.-2 Corinthians 8:9
He was rich in everything – owner of all. Yet for us He became poor so that He might make us rich. He shared with us His abundant grace and made us rich!
So we can’t be this sharing. But Christ was. And now He is remaking our hearts in salvation and now sanctification so that more and more we find ourselves becoming less about “mine” and more about “yours.” Less about, “Look what I own” and more about “Look what I can share!”
Jesus is the best Giver of all.