These are some very scary times in which we live. And I’m not talking about the results of the Presidential Election yesterday. The reason this is true is because I am writing this before Election Day and loading it online to post on Wednesday morning. That said, I suppose the opening statement may well be true either in spite of, or because of, however the results turn out.
Apart from political figures, there is plenty to worry about financially these days, given the record deficits and national debt, along with the overbought stock market and international economic instability. Does anyone TRULY know what to do in terms of investment for the future … for retirement, etc.? The uncertainty is sufficient to make one believe he should hoard every penny possible.
But then along comes those preacher dudes who tell you that you should be rich toward God, talking about stuff like tithing, stewardship, and generously giving from the abundance given you by the Lord. And those same theological talking heads are now preaching (#ForOurCity) about generosity and supporting the poor and disadvantaged in multiple ways! All of that is very nice, but what about responsibility and wisdom. Hey, what would Dave Ramsey say about this? (He’d probably say to “eat beans and rice, rice and beans.”)
But seriously, how does one be generous toward church, missions and the poor, while not becoming poor yourself by giving away all your resources? The details of the answer to this question is more than we can write in this forum, but we can begin by making one overarching and timeless truth about God.
Let’s pick up our Nehemiah story of chapter 5, where it says …
5:14 – Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year—twelve years—neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. 15 But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land.
17 Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations. 18 Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people.
19 Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people.
These verses today are a sort of summary about Nehemiah’s 12-year administration as governor in Judah, all under the auspices of the Persian king. His central focus was upon the construction of the wall, not upon the at-hand opportunity to be personally enriched and remunerated in the process. Previous governors placed a heavy tax upon the people, doing so with the authority of the government. Nehemiah recognized that his greater employer was God, and his reverence for God and love for his impoverished people caused him to act differently.
Being already a man of some material substance, Nehemiah shared of his abundance in the sustenance of many people. We might say that it is easy to be generous when one is already rich, and surely those with the most have the greatest obligation to share with others. But a complete reading of this passage would seem to indicate that Nehemiah risked pretty much all that he had to get that wall built and to promote the one true God and His people. He ends by praying, “Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people.”
So can we, even today at this crazy time of our nation’s history, trust God to supply our needs after we have generously risked our resources for the Lord’s work and for the poor? The answer is a very strong “yes.” And no, I don’t have a prayer cloth or any such scheme to share that makes such a statement a truth to live by. Let me do better than that and quote some Scripture …
Hebrews 6:10 – God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
2 Corinthians 9:10 – Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.
Romans 8:32 – He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
And here is another exercise for you. Take a moment to make a mental list of all the people you have known who were so generous in giving to the church and supporting missions and causes for the poor that they ended up impoverished themselves. I’ll pause a moment while you assemble that in your mind…
What’s the matter? You can’t name anyone? Didn’t think so! The person is yet to be found who was generous toward God and ended up insufficiently resourced personally. And you won’t be the first. You can risk generosity as a steward of God’s resources. God will remember you.