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"'No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a washtub or shoves it under the bed. No, you set it up on a lamp stand so those who enter the room can see their way. We're not keeping secrets; we're telling them. We're not hiding things; we're bringing everything out into the open. So be careful that you don't become misers of what you hear. Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.'" Luke 8:16-18 (The Message).
Come on, Jesus! What are you getting at?
He had a lot to say about the Pharisees who paraded their "righteousness" for the crowd's approval. Yet He told His disciples not to cover up their light but to display it. What are you supposed to do, to let people see how generous you are, or hide you good deed so that the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing?
The answer is "Yes". It all depends on motive. The scribes and Pharisees used their "generosity" to show how religious they were. They wanted people to admire them for their rigid obedience to the Law, but it was all on the outside. Inside they were greedy, stingy and crooked. They used every opportunity to make money out of the common people.
Jesus exposed their sickness when He threw the merchants and money changers out of the temple. They were using the Passover to extort money from the worshippers through crooked deals. The unsuspecting people were being charged exorbitant rates to exchange their ordinary money into temple money to buy their lambs for the sacrifice. Those who brought their own lambs had to surrender them because they had "blemishes", which were promptly sold to the next family as "unblemished".
Their so-called generosity was nothing but window-dressing and a cover-up for their evil hearts. It's no wonder Jesus ruthlessly exposed their hypocrisy. He wanted the people to see them for what they were and not be taken in by their unashamed falseness.
But that does not cancel out the outcome of true generosity. On another occasion Jesus urged His disciples to let their light shine before men. This is the ultimate purpose for which we were created. Like the moon, we are to shine with the reflected light of the Son.
When Jesus shines His light into our hearts, transforming us from selfish and self-centred people into those who focus on serving and meeting the needs of others, we reveal to the world around us in earthly terms, what the heart of our God is like. He is kind and generous to all, even those who would not give Him the time of the day. The creation is a reflection of His generosity and so should we be.
God's gifts to us, including our knowledge of Him, are intended to be stewarded, not hoarded. Every time we hoard what God intends for us to share, we are like the person who switches on a light and then covers it with a blanket so that it serves no purpose. No sane thinking person would do that, and yet we treat God's gifts like that. It makes no sense, does it?
In God's way of doing things, the more we give away the more we make room to receive more. The more we hoard the poorer we become inside. God's resources are meant to be circulated. Water remains fresh when it flows. A stagnant pool becomes undrinkable because all kinds of unsavoury creatures breed in it.
With the right motive, we can draw attention to God's glory and not our own. It all depends on whether God's light is in our hearts or not. If He "who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ" - 2 Corinthians 4:6 - has shone in our hearts, then the motive of our shining will be to reflect the glory back on Him.
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