Tag Archives: Generosity

There’s More

“But wait, there’s more!” Those words, made famous by infomercial hucksters, were given full measure by Ty Pennington on Extreme Makeover, Home Edition.  After walking each flabbergasted, tearful family through their newly built super-home, he’d say, “But wait, there’s more…” and then surprise them with another lavish gift, perhaps a fully paid off mortgage. 

The lavishness of the generosity, the “but wait, there’s more” attitude, is what made that show. It would have been enough if they had fixed their house and cleaned it up. But instead, anything they could imagine and accomplish to bless the family was piled on, with joy and enthusiasm. “But wait, there’s more…!”

That’s the feeling Paul must have had as he told his friends why he was so excited and happy for them as new believers. They had become recipients of the lavish, “but wait there’s more,” generosity of God. Look at his short list:

“… giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.  For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” –  Colossians (1:12-14)

Imagine the excitement experienced by each Extreme Makeover family when they first heard they qualified for an extreme makeover. God qualifies the new believer for full rights as an heir in His Kingdom. I once visited a mansion of an heir to a breakfast cereal fortune. Impressive, but not even close to the riches awaiting those who share in the inheritance of the Kingdom of God. It’s a wealth that cannot be measured with money.

Paul calls it the Kingdom of Light, and says, God has “rescued us from the dominion of darkness.” Ever met a meth addict? Most are pretty vivid examples of how the promise of fun quickly turns into dominion by very dark forces. Many worldly pleasures and treasures take control of us in a similar, if more subtle, way. But God rescues us, redeems us, forgives us and welcomes us home into the Kingdom of His Son.

Some of the most enthusiastic, happy people I know have been rescued from a very dark place and brought into His light. But they haven’t seen anything yet. To say it another way, “But wait, there’s more…

Don’t Fool Yourself

How can you tell if a person is really a Christian?  Jesus said there would plenty of fakes.  There is an easy, reliable test.  But before I tell you what the test is, let me warn you in advance: there is one, big limitation to know about before you apply this test.  Read about the test first and then I’ll tell you about the fine print:

” What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

If a person really follows Jesus, you will see it in his or her actions.  What you do shows what you really believe.  You can say you believe but, unless you put those beliefs into action, your belief is not real.  Every time you step off the jetway, across that small space onto your flight, you show that you believe the airplane will keep you safe.  So, if you want to know if someone is truly a believer in Jesus, you can tell by what he or she does.

BUT, BUT, BUT!!!   (Here’s the big caveat)  There is a limitation to how this test can be applied.  It only works accurately on one person: yourself!  Jesus taught us to be cautious about fakes and that we could spot them by their actions.  But He also taught us not to mentally condemn others or write them off.  That is God’s job.  The only person whose faith you can really test is little old you.

Jesus’ commands and teachings run against the grain of our natural tendencies.  But if you believe He was telling the truth, you risk doing unnatural things.  Like being generous to someone in need.  What you do shows what you believe.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Diving into Life

A friend of mine had made millions in the oil business.  He told me that the best thing that ever happened to him was when he literally lost it all.  He discovered, he said, that when he made money the goal of his life, what he lived for, money held him in a very tight and demanding grip.  There was never quite enough. You and I think a few million would be plenty, but my friend said he found real wealth when he was penniless.  Here’s how Jesus said it:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.  (Matthew 6:19-21 & 24 )

This sounds preposterous; everyone knows that the goal of life is to be rich.  That is, except those who have chased that goal and, too late, find themselves unable to let go.  It’s not that money is bad.  The problem is our tendency to want more and more money as a goal in itself.  When money becomes our quest, it is an addictive substance.  And, in our quest for more, we trample the attitudes Jesus calls, “storing up treasures in heaven.”   He was talking about living by the counter-intuitive principles He taught in the Sermon on the Mount.  These are based on the truth that sets a person free, that produces a life lived in harmony with God’s design.

So why does this seem so upside-down?  Jesus said it’s an eyesight problem, a consequence of how we see life:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  (Matthew 6:22-23)

When my friend lost his fortune, Jesus opened his eyes and showed him what living was really all about.

You can check this out for yourself.  Ask Jesus to open your eyes and show you how to be generous.  That’s a dangerous prayer. Jesus will certainly respond, and put you in some challenging situations.  Real generosity is a struggle because it feels self-destructive.  It feels a lot like the first time you decided to try a diving board.  You grab onto the safety rail and think, “If I do this I’m going to hurt myself or drown!”  But it is impossible to hold that rail and dive.  You have to choose.  But when you let go and bounce off the end of the board, you discover a new and exhilarating freedom.

Jesus is waiting for us in the pool of abundant life.   He says, “Stop holding on to money for dear life.  Let go and take a flying leap into real life.  Come on in, the water is fine!”