Examine our motives when we give
Paul writes a succinct reminder to Jesus’s followers in Corinth. By extension it also applies to us. He says “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously,” (2 Corinthians 9:6).
Generosity produces blessing, whereas stinginess results in scarcity. In another letter Paul is more concise: we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).
So, we should give.
Why? Because the Bible says to.
How? Give with a willing spirit, not begrudgingly but happily (2 Corinthians 9:7).
What should we avoid? Giving to get. Giving to others in order to earn a return on our investment is not generosity but selfishness. Yes, I know people who have given from their poverty and God repaid them one hundredfold. But the hundredfold blessing seldom came quickly and often involved sacrifice along the way. When we give in order to get, we miss the point. God discerns our motives (Proverbs 16:2).
Blessed to be a blessing: God promised Father Abraham that he and his descendants would be blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Or consider that “A generous man will prosper,” (Proverbs 11:25).
Full Circle: In the Old Testament God says he will bless us so we can bless others. In the New Testament he says when we bless others, he will bless us even more.
The point is, we need to give generously, but we best do so for the right reasons.
[Read through the New Testament of the Bible this year. Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 9, and today’s post is on 2 Corinthians 9:6.]
Telling the truth is not an absolute; there are shades of gray
The descendants of Jacob (Israel) are enslaved in Egypt. They are prolific and their captors fear their growing numbers. To curb their population explosion the king of Egypt commands the midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, to kill every baby Hebrew boy as he is born.
They do not. They fear God more than the Egyptian king.
The king confronts them. This may seem like a great time for them to boldly stand up to the king, proclaim their fear of God, and be ready to die for their faith. Many others in the Bible do this. Daniel and Esther come to mind.
This would be a great time for Shiphrah and Puah to proclaim God to the king. Perhaps their likely execution will rally their people. Their martyrdom could spark a revolution. They might inspire the Hebrews to rise up and ultimately escape. But they don’t do this. Instead they lie. They claim they don’t arrive in time, that the Hebrew women give birth too quickly. Therefore they are unable to do what the king commanded.
How does God react? He does not criticize them for lying; he does not punish them for missing this opportunity to confront the tyranny of their oppressors. Instead he rewards them for their reverence to him: he blesses them with families of their own. Apparently it was okay for them to lie.
What do you think about lying? When is it acceptable to break God’s commandment to not lie?
[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Exodus 1-3, and today’s post is on Exodus 1:15-22.]
We ascend the steps of the church, and a gregarious woman approaches. She’s wearing a white vestment, and I spy a clerical collar underneath. We’ve never been received so cordially.
She thanks us for visiting and asks if we’re familiar with the Episcopal Church. We say no. She smiles broadly, “Here’s what I’m going to do.” She quickly scans the sanctuary. “Our services can be hard to follow if you’re not used to them, so I’m going to seat you by someone who can guide you.” She introduces us to a couple our age and explains the situation. I sit next to the husband, and he’s eager to help.
The choir starts our service, and he cues me on the liturgy as we bounce between two books, often in quick succession. Plus, we sing one song from the bulletin. The priest also provides verbal cues when possible. My new friend takes his assignment seriously and performs it admirably. The simple gesture touches me. It makes so much sense, but no one’s ever done this for us before.
After a short message is the Holy Eucharist. Open to all, the priest thoroughly explains the process. When we go up, if we just want to receive a blessing, we cross our arms over our chest and she will bless us. To partake in the Eucharist we receive the bread (and it really is bread, not a cracker). Then we proceed to the wine, where we can dip the bread or drink from the cup. Most dip their bread and so do we.
Though we’re growing to understand liturgical services, they’re still daunting. Having someone to guide us is most helpful and much appreciated.
The service ends. I sincerely thank our guide for his assistance; today was good.
[Read about Church #31 and Church #33, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #32.]
Prior to his birth, Samuel’s father would give Samuel’s mother a double portion of the meat from his sacrifice. This showed his love for her and affirmed her, despite her being childless. She was doubly honored.
Just before Elijah went up into heaven, Elisha requested to receive a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. He did; he was doubly blessed.
The Prophet Isaiah proclaimed that those once shamed would receive a double portion, making up for what was lost. They would be doubly restored.
Given these examples, wouldn’t it be great to receive a double portion?
Not so fast.
In Revelation, God proclaims a double portion of punishment on Babylon for all the evil she had done. She was doubly punished.
We’d all like a double portion of God’s goodness, but no one wants a double portion of his punishment. But when we follow Jesus and go all in for him, we can, in fact, receive his abundance and escape his punishment.
Thank you Jesus!
[1 Samuel 1:5, 2 Kings 2:9, Isaiah 61:7, Revelation 18:6]
[Discover more about the Bible at A Bible A Day.com: Bible FAQs, Bible Dictionary, Books of the Bible Overview, and Bible Reading Plans.]
When God’s people were in Egypt, he promised to send them back to the land of Jacob, that is, the Promised Land.
God would give them the land because they deserved it, right? Surely God would bless them with freedom and a place to call home because they earned it. Their endurance while enslaved in Egypt for four centuries must have secured this reward. Certainly, they would receive the Promised Land because of good behavior and righteous living. They had garnered God’s favor and he was duty-bound to respond.
No, that’s not it at all.
Moses said God would not do this to reward Israel but to punish the nations they would displace. God had a bigger picture in mind and in order to accomplish it, he blessed one people in order to remove the wickedness of another. The Israelites were the happy recipients of God’s unmerited favor.
When something good happens, we often assume God’s implicit acknowledgment of our character and conduct. But before we pat ourselves on our back, we should recall Moses’ warning to the people of Israel: they were not to assume the Promised Land was a response to their righteousness.
We shouldn’t make incorrect conclusions about why God chooses to bless but instead just be grateful when he does.
When Abram went to the land God promised him, he took Lot with him even though he wasn’t supposed to. Abram had to deal with the consequences of his decision.
For Lot, there were consequences too. When he traveled with Abram, Lot prospered; he was a blessed man. However, once they separated, things turned bad for Lot. Without his uncle’s influence, Lot made some poor choices, eventually holed up in a cave he was fearful, broke, and alone – except for his two daughters, but that’s another story.
Sometimes things may go good for us just because of who we hang out with. But once we leave their umbrella of favor our positive outcomes can evaporate.
That’s why the company we keep is so important.
[Genesis 19:16-17, 30]
I often say the word “bless.” In prayer, I frequently ask for God’s blessing on myself and others. In essence I am asking for God’s divine favor or grace to be imparted.
Other times I have seen one person bless another by “conveying well-being or prosperity” to them. Sometimes this is done in the context of a prayer, a commissioning ceremony, or a benediction.
Both of these examples make sense to me and are readily understandable—because in both instances a “person” of authority or power is blessing someone of lessor standing. [See Hebrews 7:7]
However, I recently heard someone “bless” God. Initially I assumed that he misspoke. When he said it again, I thought he had it backwards. After all, it seems a bit arrogant to bless God in the same way that we ask him to bless us.
Then I began stumbling on this in the Bible. Some translations of Psalms 26:12 and 34:1, for example, talk about blessing God. Other versions instead use the words “praise” or “extol.”
Fortunately, the dictionary provides some help in understanding this seeming dichotomy. One of the definitions of “bless” is to “To honor as holy; glorify: Bless the Lord.”
So in expanding my understanding of “bless” to include honor and glorify, then, yes, I bless God! Do you?