From Our Hearts to Yours
Like all of the character traits Jesus embodied, generosity is a matter of the heart. The Pharisees, a sect of religious leaders in Jesus’ day, made a great show of giving to the needy, both in the synagogues and on the streets. They thought this proved how righteous and spiritual they were.
However, Jesus taught just the opposite regarding generosity. He said giving should be done in secret. He instructed us to “take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.” Instead, you are to not even “let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Why? “That…your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:1,2-4).
Giving God’s way demonstrates true righteousness before God, not in front of others, And the result? God in turn rewards the giver. In other words, you cannot look for your blessings and rewards from both man and God.
Giving is a matter between you and God and not you and another person or cause, no matter how important it is. It’s a matter of the heart. Giving is to be an act of worship. Just as you prepare yourself for worship and ministry, you are to prepare yourself for acts of generosity (2 Corinthians 9:7). Where’s your heart? A guiding truth teaches that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
We know generosity is not necessarily an indicator of a relationship with Jesus. There are many charitable people in the world who are not Christians. But those who have a heart for Jesus and sincerely desire to follow Him are generous — like Him! He instructed us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Unfortunately we tend to get this backward. We seek “things” first and add Jesus on as an afterthought.
If you’re feeling the need for a priority makeover, a look at your checkbook or your monthly credit card statement will shout out what you are seeking — things, or the things of God. Take a peek. It’s a little like taking your temperature. See what it reveals about the level of your commitment to possessions versus the things Jesus values. What does it disclose about your heart-attitude toward money and possessions and generosity?
We also need to asses the generosity of our time and attitudes. Are we available and free with our time for others’ concerns. Do we secretly avoid or seek to help those in need?
Jesus did not make it a secret that a life of faith in Him will look differently than the world. But, let make sure that the secret of your heart is genuine generosity that reflects the genuine goodness of God.
Question: What surprise did you find when you first took the temperature of your generosity by observing your checkbook? Did something stand out in particular that you wish to remedy?
Picture this. You are merrily going through your day. So far, so good. For a patch of time, it’s been smooth waters. Maybe you’re thinking, Wow, look at me go! See me sail! There’s not even been a speed bump. Life is sweet!
And then…everything goes sideways. The phone rings. The mail arrives. An accident occurs. Your boss reprimands you. The kids get home from school whining. Or your husband home from work complaining. And everything — all that peace and order and well-being and control that had you soaring through your perfect day — falls apart. It’s like out of nowhere someone shot a torpedo into your beautiful little boat.
What is the general first response most people make when something like this occurs? In a word, reaction. Your natural tendency is to strike back, talk back, react, blow up, defend yourself, fall apart, cry, throw your hands in the air, or just give up. Well, right here, at this very juncture, your first choice has got to be to stop. I think of it as coming to a screeeeeching halt! Just put the brakes on—on your emotions, on your mouth, on your actions. Just stop! And might I say, stop quickly!
Why? Because the surest way to make a wrong choice is to rush before reasoning. To fail to stop and think before acting. To make a quick or snap or emotional decision without making sure you know the right way to handle a situation, or before you know the right decision to make. You can see it right in your Bible: “He sins who hastens with his feet” (Proverbs 19:2). You can also read that in contrast “the heart of the righteous studies how to answer” (Proverbs 15:28).
Poor decisions leading to failure can happen oh so quickly! It’s like lightning. One minute all is well, and the next brings the crash and the devastation. All you have to do is fail to stop before you do anything, fail to stop before you act, fail to stop before you move, fail to stop before you speak. Once again, just stop.
Sure, there are some decisions that have to be made instantaneously. But even if your house is on fire, or there’s a terrible accident or medical emergency, or the baby’s on the way now, you can still stop even for a millisecond and take a breath, and blitz through some options, and shoot up a “Help, Lord!” That one or two split-second stop can help you form a plan on the go while zooming onward to handle a crisis.
So, the first step toward any good decision begins the same. Stop…then you can begin to look and listen. Then you can look for help. Then you can look for solutions. Then you can look for answers. And then you can listen to the wise counsel of others, and most of all, to the still, small voice of God guiding and instructing you about how to handle your problem His way – the wise, the best, and the right way.
Question: I have friend who tells herself to “stop, drop, and pray” before reacting. What phrase or verse from the bible can you use to remind yourself to stop, and think before acting?
John 3:29 – …joy is mine, and it is now complete.
One year on a beautiful autumn Sunday, Jim and I drove to from our California home to Sequoia National Park to see the fall leaves. Driving to and through the park, we enjoyed the spectacular colors and God’s striking handiwork. We also found a rustic stone lodge perched on the edge of a stream. As we crossed over a little bridge, we stopped and looked at the brook that ﬂowed beneath it and sounded so pleasant and refreshing. It sounded like a lovely place to just jump in and splash around.
But, peering over the rail, we were surprised to discover the cause of the water’s sweet sound. We saw piles of large, jagged rocks that were impeding the water’s surface, even redirecting its path. This was certainly not the place for wading. It was even quite perilous. Nevertheless, the little brook gave forth utterly joyful sounds! Both Jim and I marveled that something so traumatic could cause something so lovely!
Yet isn’t this stream a picture of what real life is like— or at least of what the Christian life should be like? Our lives are ﬁlled with disappointments, crises, tragedies, heartaches, affliction, and struggles—just as Jesus said (John 16:33)! But the good news is, that as you and I encounter disquieting rocks that impede our progress, disturb our tranquility, break the surface, and redirect our path, God can give us the joy we need to produce sounds of praise to Him.
Beloved, Jesus desired that our joy might be full (John 16:24), but affliction, loss, stress, and pain can too easily rob us of any sense of joy. But, when we turn our gaze upon God in the midst of our suffering, we suddenly ﬁnd the power we need to praise Him despite the pain and to give thanks for His goodness…even when things are not so good. Thanks to the working of His Spirit in us, you and I can experience joy that transcends circumstances and transforms something traumatic into something truly lovely.
A Prayer to Pray: Jesus help me remember that Your joy is my joy and nothing in this world can take that away. Guide me through my circumstances and challenges so that my joy might be complete, rather than diminished.
As a new Christian and young mother, I chose Proverbs 22:6 as a guiding scripture for raising my children. This admonition says parents are to “train a child in the way he should, go and they will not depart from it.” A decade later, however, my parenting didn’t seem to be working the way I wanted it to. I wasn’t reaping the results I had expected. I had expected easy teen years (ha!). And, I’d expected to be my daughters most trusted confidant. Really, I thought I would be their BFF!
I realize now that this ideal scenario is a blessing to those who enjoy it. But, it is not guaranteed for every parent / child relationship – even in Christian families. There are individual struggles and challenges to each and every parenting relationship. You yourself may worry that you do not have what it takes, or didn’t begin early enough to guide your children successfully in God’s ways. Maybe the family you grew up in was not a Christian family. Maybe there are some wounds between you and your children that need to be healed.
God knows and God knew. He knows all about it — all about what you missed, and all about what you know and don’t know about being a Christian family and mom. And, God knew all about it when He placed your children in your care.
I want to encourage you that God is the author and ﬁnisher of your faith and your life (Hebrews 12:2). He is the source that covers your failings and gives hope for your future. God is also the author and finisher of your children’s faith — which can give us hope at any stage of our children’s lives!
Question: How does it encourage you to know that God is ultimately the One responsible for your child’s faith?
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