Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Two Obstacles to Generosity

Reading:

1) Heidelberg Catechism

The Eighth Commandment

You shall not steal.

111 Q. What does God require of you in this commandment?

A. That I do whatever I can for my neighbor's good, that I treat others

as I would like them to treat me, and that I work faithfully so that I may share with those in
need.

2) Scripture

Ephesians 4:28: Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor,
doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something
to share with anyone in need.

Galatians 6:10: As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone,

and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Proverbs 19:17: Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,

and he will repay him for his deed.

Comment:

For the most part, the Ten Commandments are put in a negative form: “you shall not . . . .” But as Ephesians 4:28 and Question 111 show, there is also a positive requirement in each commandment. It is not enough just to refrain from stealing. In order to do our heavenly Father’s will we must also do good to our neighbor and share with those in need.

D. Broughton Knox points to “two great obstacles to sharing,” namely, greed and fear. Of greed, Broughton Knox says:

“We want more and more for ourselves. Such greed is self-centered and can be cured only by God. We must call upon him in prayer to give us his Holy Spirit so that our attitudes to life may agree with his character. God himself is a giving God and he gives us everything to enjoy fully. When we love God we will be able to love our brother, so we will rise above greedy and selfish use of our money and share our resources with those who have real need.”

The second obstacle to generously sharing with those in need is our fear. Broughton Knox describes that fear this way:

“We are frightened that we will leave ourselves short if we give it away; not short, perhaps, in the present, because we can estimate that, but in the future with all its uncertainties. The answer to this sort of fear is faith in God’s faithfulness in the future.”

The Lord will certainly never be any man’s debtor! Proverbs 19:17 tells us that giving to those who are in need is like lending to the Lord! Can we doubt that the Lord will repay his debts?

Learning to trust the Lord in our giving means relying on the Lord’s promises and providence. In terms of his promise, our heavenly Father has promised to care for his children’s needs. Our Father can ensure his promises to his children, precisely because of his providential control of all things.

In Psalm 37:25-26, the heavenly Father’s children are described as “the righteous” and they are never lacking despite their generosity:

"I have been young, and now am old,

yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or his children begging for bread.

He [a righteous man] is ever lending generously,

and his children become a blessing."

Discussion: What is the positive requirement of the eighth commandment? What are the two great obstacles to the kind of generosity that honors the Lord? How do we overcome these two obstacles?

Prayer Starter: Thank the Lord for his generosity to you for both body and soul. Ask for the Holy Spirit to become like the Lord in his self-giving, and for a trust in his promises and providence. Pray for opportunities to do good to others.



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