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"'I've never, as you so well know, had any taste for wealth or fashion. With these bare hands I took care of my own basic needs and those who worked with me. In everything I've done, I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You'll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, 'You're far happier giving than getting.'
"Then Paul went down on his knees, all of them kneeling with him, and prayed. And then a river of tears. Much clinging to Paul, not wanting to let him go. They knew they would never see him again -- he had told them quite plainly. Then, bravely, they walked him down to the ship." Acts 20:33-38 (The Message).
We are privileged to eavesdrop on a poignant moment in Paul's life -- saying goodbye to very dear friends and colleagues, knowing that they would not meet again on this side of eternity. What does one say, at a time like this? What would one's parting words be that would ring in their ears long after he was gone?
Although his words may seem of no consequence, he actually encapsulated, in the Master's own words, the heart of the Father -- generosity. "Generous" is an adjective but we can attach it to everything that God is: generous in love; generous in mercy; generous in grace; generous in compassion; generous in kindness; generous in forgiveness; generous in provision; generous in protection; generous in favour; and on and on!
We only need to look around us to see God's generosity everywhere. Why did He put hundreds of seeds inside a pumpkin when just a few would do to propagate the species? But He is not only generous in doing. He is also generous in being. He doesn't judge or beat us when we fall. He tenderly picks us up, dusts us off, wipes away our tears and whispers, 'It's okay. I have already forgiven you. Now keep going. I'm with you and you'll make it home to me.'
"Generosity" is an interesting word in Hebrew. The root word "tsidaq" is translated "righteousness" in English which is an abstract concept and difficult to define. The Hebrew language leans towards action rather than abstract -- understanding life from the point of view of the senses. To understand righteousness, i.e., doing the right thing, they added the letter "h" which, in Paleo Hebrew (the original picture Hebrew), was a picture of an open window. "Tsidaq" became "tsidaqah" -- "righteousness revealed", translated "generosity."
Hundreds of times in the Old Testament, righteousness and generosity are coupled together in the same verse or adjacent verses. Consider just one example: "The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously." Psalm 37:21(NIV).
The essence of our old human nature is selfishness. Adam lost his God-awareness when he chose his own way, and became pathologically self-aware and self-absorbed. Is it any wonder, then, that the world is obsessed with money, driven by money and greedy for money?
One of the clearest evidences of the transformation that Jesus works in the life of a believer is his attitude to money and possessions. When Zaccheus had an encounter with Jesus, his first reaction was to restore what he had stolen and share his bounty with the poor. Jesus concluded, "'Today salvation has come to this house...'" Luke 19:9a (NIV).
True happiness is the by-product of a generous heart, generous in attitude as well as in sharing the good things God has entrusted to us. "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
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