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Giving and Withholding Our "Gifts"
by Susan Gurney
5/04/2013 / Stewardship
Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap." NIV
How many times have you heard this part of Luke 6:38 used to encourage Christians to give generous tithes and offerings to the Lord? Once? Twice? A dozen times?! I know I've heard it many times, and I have even printed it in a Sunday worship folder as an offering thought. Indeed, many who practice generous giving to the Lord have testified to the truth of this verse.
As I recently re-read verse 38 within the context of Luke 6:27-38, I suddenly realized something. This verse is not just saying that if we give generously to God we are going to receive His blessings in return. And this verse is certainly not saying that if we give generously to God we will become materially rich, even though there are those out there that teach that misleading thought in their "theology of prosperity". I would hazard a guess that Jesus may not have been talking about giving material wealth at all when He said the words in Luke 6:38. In fact, Jesus may well be talking here about "doing unto others, as we would have them do unto us" rather than about giving generous tithes and offerings. Given the even broader context of the references listed at the end of this article, I believe that Jesus is talking about "giving" love, blessings, prayer, generosity, goodness, forgiveness, and mercy in abundance to all--even to one's enemies! Jesus is also talking about "withholding" violence, evil, judgment, and condemnation from all. In Micah 6:8, we are reminded that the only things God really requires of us is justice, mercy, and humbleness--not sacrificial offerings!
Josh Billings once said, "There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness." Romans 12:20 talks about doing good to our enemy, and "in doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." Although in our eyes this may seem a cruel thing to do to someone, I once heard it explained that in Bible times this was a very generous and loving act. In a time when there was no electricity and no matches, you were really hurting if your fire went out. This was your only source of warmth and cooking. A person in this plight could only go to his neighbor and hope the neighbor would take pity on him by heaping a share of his live coals into the container carried on the needy one's head!
We already know how to give good gifts to our friends and family members on Christmas, birthdays and other special occasions. However, the year around we don't want to forget to give to all the gifts that really count--the gifts that God gives so freely to us (and that He wants back from us!)--love, blessing, generosity, goodness, forgiveness, kindness, mercy, justice, and so on. And we certainly don't want to forget to withhold from all the negative "gifts" of judgment, condemnation, revenge, wrath, evil, and cursing! For, as the rest of Luke 6:38 says, "...with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (NIV)
What does God's Word, the Bible, say about this?
Proverbs 3:27 "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act." NIV
Micah 6:8 "He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord
require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
Luke 6:36-38a "'Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you.'" NIV
Acts 20:35b "...we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" NIV
Romans 12:19a, 20-21 "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath. On the contrary: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." NIV
Now read the following Bible passages in your favorite version of the Bible:
Susan Gurney writes devotionals, poetry, short stories, memoirs, and nonfiction on family history, faith and nature. She has experience writing/editing church and family newsletters. Find Susan at http://ssimonsgurney.christianblogsites.com/blog/ Copyright 2013 Susan Simons Gurney
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