WHO YOU ARE - NOT WHAT YOU HAVE
"Speaking to the people (Jesus) went on, 'Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even if you have a lot.'" Luke 12:15 (The Message).
Jesus was well aware of the flaw in the fabric of human nature. He spoke about money and possessions more than any other subject. Why? He constantly warned against greed because of its consequences. Greed turns men into monsters, warps the mind and rips families and society apart. The Apostle Paul put it in a nutshell, 'The love of money is the root of all evil.'
To Jesus, greed was more wicked than adultery. He forgave the woman caught in adultery; He spent time and ate with tax-collectors and sinners, but He had serious issues with religious people who used their religion as a cloak for greed. He told stories to warn people about what God thought of greed.
Generosity was the clearest evidence of a change of heart. When a greedy person was willing to give and to share, that was 'salvation.' He did not mean that giving one's money away saved anyone. That would have made it unnecessary for Him to go to the cross. He died to change the greedy heart into a disposition of generosity like the heart of God. So, when a greedy person turns generous, like Zaccheus, the miracle of salvation has occurred.
In the Bible, the word 'righteous' and the word 'generous' are interchangeable, for example, 'The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.' Psalm 37:21 (NIV). Generosity with our money and possessions are the outward evidence of a generous disposition which is willing to be open-hearted with people in every other way. God's character can be summed up by the word 'generous'. Just look at the world around us. God does everything in excess - lavish, prodigal, super-abundant provision in every way. Only man has messed it up.
God is not only generous with His provision in the natural world. His generosity spills over into His dealings with us. He is generous in His love, His mercy and His grace even towards those who will have nothing to do with Him. He gives us life and He offers every opportunity to receive His forgiveness and become a part of His rule of righteousness (generosity) in His kingdom. As long as we have breath in us, He calls and woos us towards Himself.
How can we protect ourselves against the greed that destroys everything? The answer is simple. Firstly, by receiving God's mercy we are forgiven and given a new disposition of generosity to replace our self-centred greed. But we have to cultivate the attitude towards others that sees their need before our own. Jesus said, 'Give!' The more we give to others, the more we break the selfish attitude that puts ourselves before others.
Praying won't change us. Giving will. The strange thing is that giving releases a joy that makes us want to give even more. Giving does not make us poorer; it enriches us in ways we would not have believed possible. That's what Jesus meant when He said, 'Blessed are..." True happiness comes when we do the right thing and the right thing is to meet someone else's need at our own expense. An amazing thing happens. We create a current of attitudes and resources that flows right back to us!
Jesus also warned against defining ourselves by what we have and not by who we are. The danger is that we elevate ourselves and treat others by value, not worth. Our worth lies in the price God put on us, the blood of His own Son. What we own is transient, but what we are worth is eternal and all people of all time are worth the blood of Jesus because we have God's breath is us.
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