We get so we can give.
Why does God give us things (tangible and intangible)? First, because it’s in His nature. God is generous. But second, we get so we can give.
From my car to my children to the love I show my neighbor, everything I have is, in a sense, on loan from God and on its way to someone or somewhere else. I am the conduit of His blessing for others. The things He gives me are mine for the time it takes them to pass through my hands, through my circle of influence. Like an earthen ditch flowing full of water, some of God’s blessing soaks into the earth over which they pass, and so I am blessed as all these things pass through me.
That last paragraph is where I want my mindset to remain. I’m not often there, which is why I write this month about the connection between humility and generosity.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. -Philippians 2:3-4
Value others above yourselves.
Real humility isn’t a doormat proposition. Humility says, “I know who I am in Christ, and I am confident about where I stand before God. Therefore, I don’t need to grab things or attention for myself.” In valuing others above myself, in looking to the interests of others, I choose to prioritize God’s glory over my own needs. Herein lies the essence of Confident Humility.
Worldly Gifts (money, property, things)
Jesus told this parable: A wealthy man was looking to make some easy money, so he gave bags of gold to three of his servants. He didn’t explicitly tell them he wanted his money back later, and he didn’t tell them to invest it, but they understand his intent. Then he went on a trip. When he returned, two of the servants had doubled their initial capital while the third returned what he’d been given, having hid his bag of gold in the ground (summary of Matthew 25:14-30, often called the Parable of the Talents).
Notice a few things here.
- The money never belonged to the servants. They were stewards.
- Although the gold felt like a gift, the already-wealthy man expected his servants not only to return the seeming gift but to increase it, thus increasing the man’s wealth/glory.
- To grow their money, the two smart servants had to let go of it. We don’t know how, but they put “their” money to work.
- None of the servants expected to retain any of the money for themselves.
- The wealthy man was pleased with the two servants who had a strong return on their investments. He was displeased with the one who merely returned the initial capital. (I wonder what the wealthy man would have said if any of them had taken unprofitable risks and lost some of his money.)
In the same way, we—especially we Westerners—have been given so much. It’s easy to start thinking we deserve it. I imagine the servant with an initial five bags of gold was tempted to think himself better than the other two servants, yet he never presumed to keep anything for himself. None of this belongs to us (1). Humility recognizes our role as stewards of God’s wealth.
Maybe “investment brokers” is a better image these days. We expect our brokers to increase our capital (2). (Yes, it’s actually God’s. I just said that. And yes, we have to pay our brokers. Hold this comparison loosely please.) The broker doesn’t keep our money in a bank account. He invests it (3). At some point in the future, we expect to withdraw what we’ve invested and what our money has earned in the meantime (4). It probably won’t be 100% gain, unlike the servants in our parable.
When the two smart servants put their money to work, I’m certain many people benefited. Sure, the servants got 100% return, but others also made money and/or received goods that benefited them. God is pleased when we let our blessings flow through our hands to bless others (5). When we hoard our worldly wealth, when we focus on our own prosperity, we might as well take our car out in the yard and bury it. Such selfishness obviously doesn’t help others, but it also doesn’t help us.
I won’t dwell on this for long, but notice Paul’s introductory statement for his discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. –1 Corinthians 12:7 (Link is to full passage.)
For the common good.
Spiritual gifts flow from
the Holy Spirit, through
us, to others.
In the same way God gives us worldly gifts to bless others, spiritual gifts flow from the Holy Spirit, through us, to others (usually in the church). For example, God doesn’t give someone wisdom so that person can become important or influential. He gives it to one believer to benefit other believers.
Similarly, in his letter to the church in Rome, Paul prefaces the list of gifts with a warning about humility.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. –Romans 12:3
Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought. That’s humility, linked again with gifting.
God calls on humility to underscore generosity in three ways: worldly gifts, spiritual gifts, and receiving gifts. Come back next week for my post on how graciously receiving gifts is an act of generosity. Perhaps as my humility grows, so will my generosity.
Can you see this connection between humility and generosity? What are your thoughts on it? In what way is the Lord teaching you about generosity? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!