I wonder how do we judge the actions of others? The answer is probably by what we can see. Using our senses, we deem if the action’s of someone is “good” or “significant.” Think back to earlier this year when Notre Dome was burnt down; the world marvelled at those who pledged hundreds of millions to the rebuilding project, even as the ashes still smouldered. Why? Because of the amount’s that were given. In the eyes of the world, the amount signified good intention. Now, I have no unique insight to judge the motivations of anyone, – but it is unusual in those moments how the world reacts: it was not the thousands of anonymous donors who gained media attention: It was the few who donated millions that the world marvelled at, and acclaimed.
A reminder of the Metric the world uses to measure significance. Looking at the “What” and not the “Why.” A metric that often stands in opposition to the Kingdom of God, and the way of God. Which always starts with the “Why” (Heart behind something) rather than the “What” (Action). In reflecting on this passion and Notre Dame, I was reminded off an incident recorded in the Gospels, (Mark 12: 41-44 and Luke 21:1-4) It was not something Jesus did or taught; It was something he surveyed. If we have grown up through the church, it is probably something we have become almost too familiar with: “the widow’s Mites.” As the disciples (perhaps) marvelled at the riches people gave, Jesus drew their attention to “, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.” (Mark 12:43). Not in amount, but in heart!
It was a kingdom principle established long before the coming of Christ when the Prophet Samuel declared: “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7). Thus, through Christ, the Metric of the Kingdom becomes our Metric: our way of being, doing, and judging. What motivates you today? If you are being honest, how would you summarise how you judge the motives of others? And, are you driven more by the metrics of the world than the Kingdom?
“The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God can provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;”
– 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (NRSV)
It is that same Metric we see outworked in 2nd Corinthians 9 as Paul challenges these disciples to live a life inspired by what they have received (in and through Christ), a life shaped by the metrics of the Kingdom, not the world. In relation to the “why” of our giving, it becomes one of overflow – there is no compulsion from the Lord, no duty, or striving to earn God’s favour. For the Disciple individually and church corporately, it is simply a matter of the heart. The Lord judges not by what we give, but by what motivates our giving. Summarised perfectly in the statement: “The Lord loves a cheerful giver!”
Just to highlight the depth of the challenge here, the Greek word that we translate here for “cheerful” is the same root word that we get “Hilarious.” That is the sense of inward joy spilling outward in any act of giving for the true believer; you could easily say the Lord loves a hilarious giver; not hilarious in amount, but in heart. Because the act (whether it’s giving of time, money, effort to something else) is in response to joy and creates joy in itself. It is almost hilarious because its the opposite of the world. The Lord delights in those who delight to give. The Lord delights in those who delight to give because it shows they have all they need; specifically, in Christ!
It is all an outworking of the kingdom metric in the heart. Furthermore, it challenges us as to what matters – motivation. The true disciples are motivated because of Jesus, to model their life on Jesus – who was the ultimate cheerful giver. Always giving his effort, energy, time and resources. He displayed what it means to live a Kingdom lifestyle. He was one who sows bountifully, and in the long-term reaps bountifully. So as he did, so must we. Not, to seek material reward, but the eternal reward – relationship with God.
The crux of the matter is this: we are a people who have received our all in Christ. Furthermore, we are a people in whom the Lord – who creates, sustains and gives all things – lives and dwells in the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. So we provide cheerfully because we trust he who has given us all so far, will continue to be what he calls us to be – a joyful giver. As God the Holy Spirit dwells in us, and outworks sanctification in our lives; joyful giving is one of the fruits of the spirits work. We give joyfully because the Lord gave not under compulsion, duty or need; but joyfully to us – in Christ. The great missionary Jim Elliot framed it perfectly when he said: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”
This is the truth of the Gospel outworked in the lives of disciples. In Christ, we have received our all, and when that truth so takes root in our hearts, it frees us to live radically different lives. Thankfulness displayed in generousness. As the Gospel seeps to every area of our lives, we have no fear of letting go of anything because we trust that he who would give up his own son for us will continue to meet our needs as we live lives for His Glory.
So let us be a people whose every action is shaped not by the worldly metic of status and power (giving for power or influence); but, like the Widow giving by the Metric of the kingdom (because we have received our all in Christ.) Then, let us be a people who judge the world around us through the same motive, not marvelling at amounts but at heart.
Then let us be individuals and people who are known as hilariously generous, giving lovingly and freely. Displaying the reality of the Gospel in our hearts by our living. Giving not just in the sense of coin, but in every way: Effort, time, soul and mind. When we have received our all in Christ, it should affect every area of our being, and our giving in every aspect of our life; not just our bank balance.
Why? Because it should be the natural overflow of life in Christ. Generous living corresponds to a heart that knows what it has received through Christ on the cross, so it is not done out of compulsion or duty, but an overflow of worship. Also, in the sense that because we have received our all in Christ, by the power of Holy Spirit in us (another generous gift of the Generous God) we trust that the Lord will remain faithful and generous and provide for us as we work out his will in the earth (2 cor 9:10). Furthermore, it is the outworking of our sanctification, or as Paul puts it in this passage, our righteousness as he outworks an Image from Psalm 112:9 in verse 9 of this passage:
He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honour. – Psalm 112:9
Thus, the promise of the increased harvest is not understood in the sense of material, but in the spirit of our own righteousness as God uses his disciples as instruments of Grace and Mercy in a fallen world, drawing sinners to himself. Freely we have received, so freely we give. Ask yourself today: “How am I living?” Or perhaps, more importantly: “How am I giving?”