Christian believers must "give bountifully and willingly for the supply of the wants of the needy." If this statement is true, it means compassionate giving has an important place in our personal finances.
The quote above comes from a Jonathan Edwards sermon delivered in January 1732. In fact, the very subject of the sermon was that "tis the most absolute and indispensable duty of a people of God to give bountifully and willingly for the supply of the wants of the needy."
As his source, Edwards used Deuteronomy 15.
7 "If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be (Deuteronomy 15:7–8 ESV).
We Use God's Money
If you find that you are struggling with the idea that it is a Christian duty to "open your hand" to fellow Christians in need, remember that everything you have belongs to God.
You are a creature. God made humanity from dust. Our persons, faculties, and finances belong to God. Whatever money you have is on loan to you. You are simply its steward.
So when you know a family in your church community is struggling to make ends meet, help out. If a fellow believer is in a bad work situation and needs to start a business, consider investing or lending him the money he needs to get started.
The Principle of Generosity
Generosity is giving freely and sacrificially to others without expecting anything in return. I mention it here because I don't want you to get too hung up on the term "lend" in the passage from Deuteronomy.
It is indeed all right to lend to those fellow Christians in need. That is why I used the example of lending someone the money to start a business, or, for that matter, even investing, so that God might bless you both.
Just remember that God calls Christians to be generous with our resources, as the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, "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, ESV).
Generosity can take many forms, from giving financially to giving our time and talents to help others. Entrepreneurs, for example, have been blessed with resources that they can use to bless others, and by doing so, honor God.
One example of generosity in action comes from the book of Acts. Acts 2:44-45 says, "And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need" (ESV).
The early Christians in Acts shared their resources, giving sacrificially to meet each other's needs. You don't have to give away everything you have in order to default to generosity. But you can take a generous attitude toward those around you.
The principle of generosity reminds us that we should share our resources with others. We are not meant to hoard wealth. Instead, our resources and wealth are tools that can positively impact the world and show God's love to others.
So let's apply this to our personal financial situation. I think we should be actively looking for opportunities to put God's money —the money he allows us to hold and steward— to work in the kingdom.
- "Christian Charity or, The Duty Of Charity To The Poor, Explained And Enforced" by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) via A Puritan's Mind.
- "He Who Sows Bountifully Will Reap Bountifully" by John Piper via Desiring God.