The Law of Generosity
Feb 01, 2014
Jesus says in Luke 6:38,
38 Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.
The previous verse told us that justice and mercy would be measured to us according to our own standard. Now we see that the same holds true for our generosity. In other words, our ability to love and show mercy also makes us generous in every way.
The Law of Victims Rights not only gives victims the right to receive restitution but also gives them the right to forgive those who have trespassed against them.
The Law of Impartial Justice not only means that the judge must extend to everyone the right to obtain equal justice, but also establishes the right of the judge to grant mercy to the extent that the sinners have been merciful to others.
The Law of Generosity gives every man the right to give away that which he owns by the labor of his own hands and will be given more in return than he has given. The reward of generosity, however, does not necessarily come to him immediately or in monetary terms, as we will see shortly.
Each of these three laws establishes rights, not duties. In the Law of Victims Rights, a judge has a duty to uphold the rights of all victims of crime, but the victims themselves retain the right to forgive.
In the Law of Impartial Justice, a judge has a duty to administer impartial justice to all, but he also has the discretionary right to reduce the sentence according to the level of mercy that the sinner has shown in the past. This is seen in the example of King David, who may not have lost four of his sons, if he himself had shown mercy. For example, if David had volunteered to pay the poor man for the loss of his sheep, he might have avoided much heartache in the years to come. God (through Nathan the prophet) was David’s judge in that case, and it is clear that the divine sentence was withheld until the mercy factor had been calculated.
Even so, when David repented, God still extended mercy, for David himself was not placed under sentence of death. Even so, the family of Uriah (the victim in this case) received justice, for David not only paid fourfold, but his four sons paid the death penalty. The right of the judge to extend mercy must not infringe upon the right of the victim to receive justice. His duty to administer justice and his discretion in dispensing mercy require him to be led by the Spirit to fulfill his calling as a biblical judge. To balance justice and mercy may be difficult, but that is why judges must be well schooled in the law and must have the wisdom and understanding of the Lawgiver.
When the law is upheld by the judges according to the mind of God, the people live under “the law of liberty.” James 2:12, 13 says,
12 So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
Here James draws from the lesson of the Ark of the Covenant, the box which held the tables of the law. Positioned over the box was the mercy seat, where God “sat” on the throne to judge the people. James says “mercy triumphs over judgment.” The Greek word translated “triumph” is katakauchaomai. It means to exult (rejoice), exalt, to boast itself as superior to something, to triumph over, to position one’s self above or higher than something else.
Hence, the phrase could read, “mercy is positioned over judgment, or justice.” That is, mercy rises above justice. For this reason, the mercy seat was positioned above the tables of the law, for God desires and values mercy above pure justice. The justice of God is not without mercy, as so many have been taught.
This brings us to the Law of Generosity, which Jesus mentioned in Luke 6:38. A judge has a duty to uphold the right of a man to keep that which he has earned by his labor, but the law upholds his right to be as generous as he wishes with his own property. When a nation’s tax system takes more than ten percent (tithe), it violates the Law of Generosity. When a nation claims to help the poor by stealing from those who have earned wealth by their own labor, it is a lawless generosity than is not blessed by God.
In fact, it is one of the curses for disobedience.
The Law of Generosity establishes the right for men to give what they own. If I wish to help a poor man, I have the right to be generous with my own property. I do not have the right to steal from my neighbor in order to give to the poor.
Nations that steal money or property from those who have earned it by their labor are not really trying to help the poor. They are merely seeking power. They covet the power of the people to be generous. By robbing from its citizens, they infringe on the power and ability of the people to be generous. In claiming the right to tax, they also claim the right to tax whoever they wish and to exempt whoever they wish. Hence, they take for themselves the power to enrich the privileged few with tax breaks at the expense of the majority. And when more people are impoverished, their solution is to increase their own power to tax.
The right to be generous is the right to be Christ-like. The Kingdom of God functions on generosity, not kleptomania. In a kleptocracy, the people are forced to hide their assets from government thieves, and this suppresses generosity, because the people begin to focus more on retaining and hiding assets than in helping the poor. It creates an adversarial relationship between government and the people.
This was the situation in first-century Judea under the Roman government. Rome had the heart of a beast, not the heart of God. The publicans (tax collectors) were despised and ostracized from the temple and synagogues. Yet the people seemed to forget that their captivity was a judgment of God. Their forefathers had cast aside the divine law in favor of the laws of men, so God sentenced them to live under the laws of men. The judgment would show them by hard experience that casting aside the divine law would not bring freedom, happiness, and prosperity, but slavery, despair, and poverty.
The same is true under Mystery Babylon today, except that today’s “beast system” is a secret, hidden government. Hence, the “mystery.” Because people do not know that they have been enslaved by a foreign government, they are more content than the Judeans were in the first century under Rome. Because the people are more content, they are given more freedom, as long as they pay their taxes and do not seek to overthrow their rulers.
The Law of Generosity is somewhat restricted by the captivity, because government has usurped the people’s ability to be as generous as they might wish to be. We really do not yet comprehend the power of this law. Yet Jesus spoke of it in the context of Rome’s dominion. His words must have left most of His audience incredulous, especially those who interpreted His words according to the carnal mind. Did He really mean that I can become rich by being generous? Is generosity the path to riches? Are we to view such giving as a business investment, where we expect big profits in return?
The carnal mind may induce religious people to make big offerings to prosperity preachers, who promise them a hefty return. Usually, the result is that the prosperity preacher becomes wealthy, while most of the people remain impoverished. Yet the wealth of the preacher is set forth as the example proving that “the system works.”
Jesus’ words are thus twisted from generosity to investment. If I invest money in a business, I should expect to receive a profit, for that is the nature of business. However, Jesus was not talking about business investments. In fact, He said the very opposite in Luke 14:12-14,
12 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. 13 But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Jesus probably explained this in His “sermon” as well, as hinted in Matthew 7:46,
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?
Generosity is not really generosity (or love) if one expects it to be financially profitable. When preachers induce us to be “generous” at offering time but treat it as a business investment they teach the Law of Investment in the guise of the Law of Generosity without distinguishing between the two. Often the motive is the preacher’s personal greed, couched in spirituality, and the spirit of greed is then passed along to the people as well.
About 20 years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a Charismatic pastor that I had known for many years. I arrived the week that another “prosperity” preacher had come to speak in his church during the week. He came, promising great things. The church’s mortgage would be paid off, everyone would get healed, everyone would prosper. We were to bring all our friends to the special “healing” meeting on Thursday evening. And, oh, by the way, everyone should bring $100 to the Thursday meeting to put into the offering.
Well, to my knowledge no one was healed, but much time was spent taking up the offerings. I was told later that the preacher expected to be paid $5,000 for his services, but only $2,500 in offerings had been raised. He demanded all of that and then sent a bill to my preacher friend for the other $2,500. So not only was the mortgage not paid off, but the church ended up deeper in debt.
This is only one story of many. When people use Jesus’ words about giving as a tool to get other people to give them money, I sense a spirit of greed. They usually come to prosper themselves, not the people.
Investment can be a good thing, but it is not based on unconditional love. It is conditional upon receiving a profitable return, and therefore always has the potential of being motivated by greed. Each investor, therefore, must search the motives of his own heart. The type of love that Jesus advocated was different. The love of God is expressed in giving with no thought of return. The agape love of God, by definition, excludes greed and is not selfish in any way.
Such love is the foundation of the whole law, and anyone who desires to fulfill the law can do so only by a heart of perfect love.
This is part 27 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones