“The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9 NIV)
Just what is this verse saying, really?
If you take it at face value, it is easy enough to understand it as thus: If you want to be blessed, you must be generous…you must feed the poor!
And this is likely how most people would take this verse. Most of us desire to be blessed; therefore the path to blessing lies in being generous and feeding the poor. The only problem is, the formula doesn’t always work…
So many people write in to this ministry angry with God because they were generous in their tithe, or they routinely help the poor, but their own blessings don’t seem to be coming. As I think about this, and as I meditate upon this text a bit further, it seems to me that understanding it in this manner puts it a bit in contrast to some of the other commands we see in the Bible. Take Matthew 6:3, for example: “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (NIV). If we are giving to the poor in order to open the flood gates of blessings upon ourselves, then our right hand certainly does know what our left hand is doing!
And what about Hebrews 13:16? “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (NIV). It would appear from this text that the motivation for giving should not be so that we can receive, but rather, so that we can please God!
Then there’s Deuteronomy 15:11: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.” (NIV) This would indicate that we aren’t supposed to give to receive blessings, but rather, because God has commanded us to give.
What about Matthew 25:35-36? “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’” (NIV) This reminds us that when we are generous, we are serving God!
Could it be that our giving doesn’t result in the hoped-for blessings because … our motivation for giving is … wrong? Could it be that we need to be generous and have a giving spirit … not to receive blessings, but rather, to be obedient to God? Because of our love for Him? Because of our desire to serve Him?
Let’s take this a step farther. Going back to Matthew 6:3, what if giving would simply be the result of a generous spirit? What if you were to give as easily as you breathe? What if it isn’t pre-planned? If there is no alternate motives behind giving at all? What if you are simply responding out of a God-given heart of love, out of your own gratitude for how much God loves you?
I don’t naturally have a generous, giving spirit, and I am often guilty of giving simply because I think I have to; or worse, because I want to be blessed. It has become a matter of prayer lately, and I am pleased to say that God is starting to give me a giving spirit, one that wants to be generous out of my love for and gratitude to Him.
Take yesterday, for example. I had been praying about whether to continue to support someone financially. When I read the text in Proverbs that says, “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9 NIV), I can honestly say it never occurred to me that if I continued to give to this family, I would be blessed. I simply took it as a confirmation that God wanted me to continue helping this family, and with joy in my heart, I proceeded to do just that. Imagine my surprise when later that same day, FIVE prayers — count them … 1,2,3,4,5 prayers — were answered! I was feeling truly blessed. But it was only later that I remembered Proverbs 22:9; and suddenly I understood why so many give but aren’t blessed: It is because they are giving for the wrong reasons. When we give to be blessed, we are giving for selfish reasons. God asks us, rather, to give out of a loving heart, a heart that is centered in Him and Him alone, a heart that only wishes to please our Lord and Maker. Then, and only then, will those blessings flow. And when they do, we might not even truly equate them to the act of giving, for it wouldn’t have been our motivation at all.
What about it? Do you want to give to be blessed? Or do you want to give because God asks us to and you want to please Him? Because if it is the former, you may not see those blessings. If it is the latter, however, you better be ready, because those blessings will flow: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38 NIV)
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two adult boys, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, The Illustrator, a four-times-a-week internet newsletter, and the Sermon Illustrator website, all with Answers2Prayer Ministries.