Ezra 1:4-6 and 2:68-69
1 Timothy 6:18
A father had taken her to the circus. Standing in the ticket line, they were behind a family of obvious few means. The two parents and especially their eight young children were excited to see the circus. But when the children’s father reached the ticket window and learned the price of admission, he was disheartened and embarrassed because he could not afford the tickets. The girl standing behind them watched her father slip a $20 bill from his own pocket and “accidentally” drop it. He then stooped down, retrieved it and handed it to the other father saying, “Sir, I believe this fell out of your pocket.” The children’s father, understanding the gesture, thanked him with tears in his eyes. The girl and her father didn’t see the circus that evening—the $20 had been their own ticket money. But they left that evening with something far greater, the joy of practicing generosity.
In the book of Ezra, we learn of the willingness of God’s people, once enslaved, to generously give toward the rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. What is striking is that they were not compelled to give, but that they chose to give “of their free will.” They chose to give—not out of their excess, but out of their desire to please God. In Nehemiah, it says they could have chosen to “line their own pockets” (The Message), but instead they chose to give. They had a choice, as we all do.
Oswald Chambers has a lot to say about possessions: “Professional Christianity is a religion of possessions that are devoted to God; the religion of Jesus Christ is a religion of personal relationship to God and has nothing to whatever to do with possessions. The disciple is rich not in possessions, but in personal identity.”
Through our adoption into the kingdom of God by Christ’s sacrifice, we have everything. Everything—even if we lack material benefits. We lack nothing. From this understanding that God has been eternally generous with us and that His sacrifice of his own Son far exceeds any sacrifice we can ever make, as a discipline of our faith generous giving should be very easy for us. Is it for you? Is it easy to give sacrificially toward the building of God’s kingdom on earth?
Think about your life in the United States and about the privileges and advantages you have, particularly your material and financial blessings. Make a list of these blessings you enjoy, and then make a list of challenges you face. Which list is longest?
As you prepare for Easter, as you move through Lent, a time of discipline and sacrifice, consider what it means not only to give but to give generously and sacrificially. Can you find a friend—or a stranger—whose need you can meet, whose burden you can lighten, or whose suffering you can help shoulder through an act of your own generosity? Can you move the dial on a church program or project? Can you support a mission that could mean gaining eternity for someone else? Can you—in an act of deliberate faith—practice the discipline of generosity?
– Martha Graham