Learning about Generosity | How to Wisely be Generous
Read or listen to Luke 16:1-13.
What do you learn about generosity from this passage?
He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Read or listen to this blog from Bill Gorman to learn more about generosity. Identify one thing you learned and what it would look like to practice that this week.
How to be Wisely Generous
A Strange Story
Jesus told a lot of parables, but the parable of the dishonest manager in Luke 16 is one of the strangest. It’s not because the story is difficult to follow, but because it seems like Jesus is commending dishonesty.
The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
Now to be clear, Jesus is not encouraging us to be like the manager in the parable in his lack of virtue, but rather that we should emulate the shrewdness and wisdom he exhibits.
I appreciate how one of the foremost living scholars on the parables of Jesus, Craig Blomberg, summarizes the insights we should take from this story:
(1) All of God’s people will be called to give a reckoning of the nature of their service to him. (2) Preparation for that reckoning should involve a prudent, shrewd use of all resources, especially in the area of finances. (3) Such prudence and shrewdness, demonstrating a life of true discipleship, will be rewarded with eternal life and joy. (Blomberg, Interpreting the Parables, 325)
In light of this, how should we live? Here are three things to consider.
Live Before an Audience of One
This parable reminds us that we are all accountable to Someone. Jesus teaches not only here, but many times in the gospels, that we will give account for how we have lived our lives and stewarded what has been entrusted to us.
We do not, however, live before our Audience of One in terror of condemnation. Jesus through his substitutionary death and victorious resurrection has removed all fear of death and condemnation. Instead, we live before our Audience of One knowing that we are not our own. God owns everything, and we are merely managers and stewards of it. As the Apostle Paul puts it:
For none of us lives for himself, and no one dies for himself. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
Romans 14:7–8, 12 CSB
Your audience determines your actions. The more you are aware of our true Audience, the more you will live a life that pleases him and brings joy to others and ourselves.
Live According to the Design
But nothing will frustrate that joy quicker than trying to live this life without a clear design. Have you ever tried building Legos without directions? Not only is it harder and more frustrating, but it also takes longer, and the result is less rewarding.
The same is true with generosity, especially with financial resources. A haphazard approach can leave you confused at best (Should I give to this or that? How much? Am I giving enough?) or full of regret at worst (I wish I hadn’t given to this because now I can’t give to that).
If you want a quick primer on wise generosity, check out Christ Community’s paper Giving God Our Best: God’s Design for Generosity
Live with the End in Mind
Finally, you have to live with the end in mind. We’ve been entrusted with a finite amount of time in this age to obey and follow Jesus. Keeping that finitude in the forefront of your mind is key to making wise decisions now.
One of the most powerful ways to do this is to write your own obituary. Far from being morbid, this can be a deeply meaningful exercise that connects you to what you value and how you want to be remembered. Clarifying the end allows you to be more intentional in the present.
A question for reflection
Wise generosity takes a clear vision, specific intentions, and concrete actions. With that in mind, take a minute to reflect on this question: What’s one small, practical step I could take this week to make wiser decisions related to generosity? Some ideas are: download a budget app, ask a trusted friend to recommend a financial planner, or schedule 15 minutes to start your obituary. Then pray and ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to take that step.
- Living a Generous Life: Leaving a Lasting Legacy – Class
- Paper: Giving God Our Best: God’s Design for Generosity
Praise God for being a God of generosity. Invite him to show you how you might imitate him this week.