MOMENTS OF SURPRISING GENEROSITY

Luke 10:30—37; 21:1—4; Philippians 2:5—11

Every year, most churches engage in some sort of “stewardship campaign.”  Unsuspecting congregations across the land are barraged by an endless stream of sermons, Bible studies, and bulletin inserts on tithing.  But stewardship is much more than writing a check for 10% or 20% of your income.

Stewardship begins with the life we live; we are witnesses for Christ and as such we either attract other people to Him or we don’t, and that is stewardship.  The key to being an effective witness for Christ involves the “stewardship of life,” living a consistent, Christian life.

Stewardship also includes our time.  Some of the classic verses about the stewardship of our time include:

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  (Ephesians 5:15—16)

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.  (Colossians 4:5)

Stewardship also involves the things we own; our possessions.  It is surprising how many believers don’t understand or don’t remember James 1:17—

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

When we tithe, we are really simply giving back to God a small part of that which He has given us.  Christians don’t really own anything nor do we really acquire any good thing on our own; it all comes from God.

Interestingly, stewardship also includes such nebulous things as our influence and our personalities!  Romans 14:7 tells us—

For we do not live to ourselves alone and we do not die to ourselves alone.

What we say and how we say it can affect our witness for Christ.  How we treat people has an impact upon others.  How we dress, our hygiene, our attitude, our emotional stability and our general outlook on life are all things that every believer must cultivate with Christ and our obligations to Him in view.

There are three examples of outstanding yet surprising stewardship that deserve a second look.

1.  Sacrificial generosity, Luke 21:1—4

(a)  What the rich gave, verse 1

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.

There is a lot going in verse one; it is connected to 20:45—47, where Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of the scribes—

While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

These four verses, showing the sincerity of a certain widow, serve as a stark contrast to the snobbish, wealthy scribes.  These self-important religious men who “devoured widows’ houses,” are set against a “poor widow.”

By reading Mark’s account of this incident, we notice that he adds a small but important detail missing in Luke—

Many rich people threw in large amounts.  (Mark 12:41b)

There was not a thing wrong with that; these “rich people” were doing exactly what they should have been doing as prescribed by their own law.  However, Jesus is the great Searcher of hearts, and the amount these “rich people” gave was not the issue, the heart of the one giving was the only thing that mattered.  The following verses reveal that despite their apparent generosity, all was not well with these wealthy givers.

(b)  What the poor widow gave, verse 2

He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.

Jesus not only watched what and how the wealthy people gave, He also watched what and how a poor widow gave.  “Two very small copper coins” added up to about half a cent.  These were the smallest coins in circulation at the time and therefore represented the smallest contribution lawful to make.   The virtue of her actions did not lay in her poverty, but in the attitude of her heart; the fact that she was poor is really irrelevant to Jesus’ point, for the wealthy could have the same attitude.

(c)  The lesson Jesus gave, verses 3, 4

“Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

By man’s reckoning, what this poor widow gave was so insignificant it could barely be calculated.  However, by God’s reckoning, her contribution was beyond measure.  We notice four salient points—

  • What the poor widow gave was so important to Jesus—it impressed Him so much—that He called the disciples over to point it out.
  • Jesus used the phrase, “Truly I tell you,” a phrase He always used when introducing a teaching of paramount importance.
  • As far as Jesus was concerned, the poor widow’s gift might well have been sparkling diamonds, not small copper coins.
  • Jesus pointed out that her gift was precious, not because of the value of the gift, but because of her heart:  she gave when she couldn’t afford to.  She could have given one coin and kept one, yet she gave both—she gave all.

2.  Unselfish generosity, Luke 10:30—37

(a)  Religious without love, verses 30—32

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

We know this story so well, don’t we?  The road traveled by the “certain man” was perilous; it was rugged and it was not uncommon for bandits to hide along the way, pouncing on unsuspecting travelers.  Although this was a parable told by Jesus, it is certain many people had, in reality, been robbed and beaten as they walked this road from Jerusalem to Jericho, a distance of about 20 miles.

This poor man was beaten and robbed and left to die, and he got no help from anybody.  One of the very rare times when Jesus had a negative thing to say about priests occurs right here.  A priest walked by this pitiful man and he deliberately crossed over to the other side of road in order to avoid him.  It could very well be that this priest had to avoid this man in order to keep himself ceremonially pure so he could fulfill his priestly functions.  If that was the case, it is a sad example of a man who placed his man-made religious convictions ahead of helping someone in need.

The Levite, who was likely an assistant to the priest, did exactly what the priest did.  These religious men should have had some compassion, yet they had none; there was no love in their hearts for a hurting person.  They apparently thought more of their standing in their religion than they did of their fellow man.  They were cold, and for reasons that must have seemed good them, refused to “get involved.”

(b)  Love in action, verses 33-35

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.  The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Jesus gives us no details about the man who stopped to help the beaten man, except to say that he was a “Samaritan.”  That is an important detail; Jesus is not praising the Samaritans in any way—they were really no better than the Jews—but merely using him as an example to prove a point.  Samaritans and Jews hated each other and the man beaten up was in all likelihood a Jew.  Under normal circumstances, a Samaritan would have never stooped to help a Jew and vice versa.  Just like the two religious types who had their religious rules to follow, Jews and Samaritan had certain societal and cultural “rules” to follow, and while the religious men put their rules ahead of their humanity, the Samaritan set aside his rules to help a fellow human being.

In fact, the Samaritan, just like the poor widow, gave all he had to give in helping this stranger.  He not only stopped to offer aid, he took him to an inn where he could be cared for while he recovered, he paid the bill in advance and he even offered further assistance if it became necessary!  And like the poor widow who became an example of generous giving for all eternity, so the unnamed Samaritan became an example loving generously for all eternity.  We still speak of helpful people as “Good Samaritans,” two thousand years after he is spoken of by Jesus.

(c)  Example to live by, verses 36, 37

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”   The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”  Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

As scholars have studied this parable, is Jesus’ purpose in telling it to show what kind of Savior He is or what kind of people He wants us to be?  The truth is, Jesus wants us to live on earth the way He did, and the Good Samaritan is a prime example of one who did just that.  How do believers live like Jesus?  They do things like what the Good Samaritan did; acts of kindness not motivated by external sources, but motivated by the heart.

3.  Christ’s generosity, Philippians 2:5—11

(a)  The mind of Christ, verse 5

Having the “mind of Christ” really involves how we treat each other in the Body of Christ,  not just how we “think.”  More than anything, Paul wanted the Philippians’ to have a healthy relationship with each other.  His whole argument is summed up with verse 4—

Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

How we do that is the subject of the subsequent verses.  How we treat others is wrapped in understanding what Christ did for us—

In your relationships with one another, have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had.  (verse 5)

He is our perfect example.  Though we can’t copy Christ’s mind and actions perfectly—we can’t copy His redemptive acts or die vicariously for others—we can adopt His attitude of humility and submission to God.   Several times in His earthly ministry Jesus encouraged His followers to imitate Him, Matthew 20:27—28 for example—

…whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

(b)  The preincarnate Lord, verse 6

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage…

Though not stated explicitly, Paul begins with Christ in His preincarnate state in order to show how far the Son of God went to redeem humankind.  Entire volumes have been written about this verse, but very simply stated, Paul tells his readers that from all eternity, the Father and the Son have been one, completely equal in every way imaginable.  Paul put it another way—a simpler way—when he wrote to the Corinthians:

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 through his poverty might become rich.  (2 Corinthians 8:9)

Christ had it all in glory, but He was willing to give it all to save sinful human beings; that is the essence of verse 6.

(c)  The incarnate Lord, verses 7, 8

…rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a human being, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

The great “emptying” of Christ, theologically known as the Kenosis of Christ, is the glue that holds Christian theology together.  In order to become a man—a real man, not the image of illusion of a man—our Christ had to take extraordinary steps.  The Son of God willingly emptied Himself—He made Himself nothing—so that He could be a man.   The question naturally is, “Of what did Jesus empty Himself?”

  • His deity?
  • His nature?
  • His divine prerogatives?
  • His equality?

Paul does not say; all the great theologian says is that Christ emptied Himself.  The verb kenoun means “to pour out,” with Christ Himself as the object.  What that means is simply this:  Christ emptied Himself of Himself. In other words, like the poor widow, the Son of God gave all He had to give.  Like the Good Samaritan, the Son of God willingly set aside the “rules” to show love and to help people in need; He thought nothing of giving up His standing and position in Heaven.

(d)  Christ’s exaltation, verses 9—11

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus Christ humbly obeyed the will of His Father, redeemed sinful human beings, and was exalted when His mission was completed.  But notice that while Christ was rewarded for the work He did, ultimately what Jesus did on earth and even His exaltation were all “to the glory of God the Father,” not to the Son!  What a remarkable statement.  Of course, that does not take away our praise, adoration, and worship of Jesus Christ as the Lord of our lives, but even as we ascribe all glory and honor to Christ, we are really glorifying God the Father; notwithstanding the fact that the Father and the Son are one, in back of every single thing Jesus did on our behalf, was God the Father.

The lesson here is powerful:  the glory of God the Father must always be the goal and purpose of everything we do.  When we seek to emulate Christ in our daily lives, we are really glorifying God the Father.  When we live life armed with the same attitude Christ had, we are glorifying God.  When we give as generously as we can; when we give all, we are causing God the Father to be glorified!  When we are Good Samaritans and love generously, we are bringing glory to God.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

4 Responses to “MOMENTS OF SURPRISING GENEROSITY”


  1. 1 Gary Arnold May 27, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    I understand generous, sacrificial giving, but can you give me scripture to show that I should be tithing on my income and bring it to the church?

  2. 2 Dr. Mike May 27, 2010 at 10:46 pm

    Gary,

    Christians often cite Malachi 3, which references bringing the tithe to the temple, and they equate the modern church to the temple. That, of course raises the question, Is the church obligated to keep the Mosaic Law, then? Naturally not, the Law was not given to anybody except the Israelites, so Christians are not obligated to keep any of it. But, then, the tithe was practiced long before Moses and the Law, as you are aware. Abraham gave a tenth of all he had to Melchizedek, who himself is a type of Christ. That leads a whole segment of the church to conclude that we are to tithe to the place where we are spiritually fed, namely, the local church.

    In fact, nowhere in the NT is there even a hint that Christians are obligated to tithe to their church. But that doesn’t let Christians off the hook in supporting their local churches!

    What the NT does teach are two things: (1) Christians are to be generous with their fnances, especially toward the Body of Christ. The local church is where we learn and grow, living out our faith, giving and receiving encouragement, etc. It is classless and boorish to attend a church week after week, never contributing to its upkeep or its ministries. And, (2) The Lord deserves ALL we have, not merely 10%. If you study the early church in Acts, it becomes apparent that the members of the church gave what they could to support its mission and its pastors (Paul was always picking up collection and distributing them). The reality is, everything we have comes from God, we own nothing. Part of the practice of submission and living by faith is giving generously to the Lord’s work, and that only begins with your local church (read Acts).

    As a pastor, what I tell people is this: the tithe is a good starting point in your stewardship (of your finances). Every believer’s goal ought to be complete surrender and consecration to God to the point where we would, if called upon, give all our earthly goods to the service of the Kingdom. Now, the odds are God would never ask us to do that, but that must be our attitude; we should never hold too tightly to our possessions.

    I could go on and on, and frequently do. On this issue, you will find a lot literature that teach Christians should practice the tithe. You will also find equally compelling literature teaching what I believe. I suggest before visiting your local Christian bookstore you read what the Bible says about the issue. Pray about it and ask God how He wants you to give. It’s His money, anyway.

  3. 3 Gary Arnold May 27, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Thank you, Dr. Mike for your reply to my comments.

    I totally agree that those who attend a church have a moral obligation to support the church in all ways, including financial.

    I believe the New Testament teaches sacrificial giving, according to our means. To me, that means for some, they will be giving much less than ten percent, and for others, myself included, far more than ten percent. I personally believe that God is more concerned with what I keep for myself than He is with how much I give. For example, if I purchased a $1,000 HDTV for myself while by neighbor goes hungry, I have not done what God wanted me to do with the money He has placed in my hands.

    I cannot agree that ten percent is a good starting place because there are poor who just don’t have it without going without food and/or medicine.

    I disagree with those who use Abraham as an example as Abraham gave a tenth of war spoils that he, himself, didn’t belong to him. Following Abraham’s example would mean tithing one time, only on spoils of war, and keep nothing for yourself.

    I have a problem using the word tithe with one’s income as God defined His tithe in Leviticus 27:30-33 to be ONLY from crops and every tenth animal (NOT the first), and gave the command to take His tithe to the Levites in Numbers 18. God’s definition includes only the miraculous increase from God and NOT anything that man made or earned. In my opinion, calling a tenth of a person’s income The Lord’s Tithe is cheapening God’s tithe, and is totally incorrect.

    Those who can give ten percent should. Those who can give 20%, 30%, 75%, etc. should.

    I again appreciate your reply and am happy you aren’t one of those pastors who say you are robbing God if you don’t tithe. Even not considering that the law was nailed to the cross, in Hebrews 7:5,12,18 we are told that the command (Numbers 18) was disannulled, which tells us that the Levitical priesthood WITH tithing was canceled.

  4. 4 Dr. Mike June 1, 2010 at 1:45 am

    Great points, and of course you are correct when you say some just cannot give 10%. Like most aspects of Christian living, I think giving is sort of “learned behavior,” and very often young or immature Christians are not in a position (financial or emotional) to give even 2 or 3%. As has been evidenced in my life and many in my congregation, as we grow in grace and do what we can, God will enable us to give more and more, assuming our hearts are right and our motives pure. God is nothing if not understanding and patient.

    I get completely irked when pastors lay a guilt trip on their people if they don’t give 10%. On the other hand, that same pastor may be giving others an excuse to not give more than 10% when they are easily able to. I am convinced the most dangerous place for a Christian to be on Sunday morning is in church, if their minds are messed with by ignorant pastors.

    I suppose some pastors are afraid giving will down if they don’t play the tithe card, yet my experience has been the exact opposite! When it is explained to believers that they are not bound by a certain percentage, and that they are free to give generously, as the Lord has prospered them, they tend to give much more, especially if they are presented with a need. Our church needs a new roof at the moment, for example, and I have no doubt that when that need is presented to the congregation, the money will come in, just as it always has in the past.

    Anyway, thanks for your informed and helpful comments. Keep up the great work.


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