Psalm 26:7--That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Proverbial Paradoxes

Proverbs 11:24; 13:7--There is that scattereth , and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.

A paradox is something that contradicts itself but is somehow true. God uses many paradoxes in the Bible: the first shall be last, and the last shall be first (Luke 13:30); whoever finds his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus' sake will find it (Matt. 10:39). Rationally, these statements seem contradictory, yet they are true. There is one general lesson we can learn from all of God's paradoxes: "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my [God's] ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).

Above are two very similar verses. In them, God tells us that if we give away our material possessions, it will actually increase our wealth, but if we hoard our possessions, we will be poor. How does that make sense? It doesn't, but, as stated above, it reveals one of the miraculous ways God works that is much better than what we could conceive.

So what are some ways in which this works? To begin with, God will bless you if you give. First Corinthians 9:7 says, "Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver", and again in Proverbs 22:9, "He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor." God has promised to bless those who are generous givers and who give out of a cheerful heart. It's relatable to the biblical principle of reaping what you sow. Furthermore, we can never out-give God; if we are being wise stewards of what He's given us (which includes giving), He will continue to increase our blessings as He does our faith and wisdom.

This raises several points about motivation, however. Obviously, as 1 Corinthians 9:7 states, we shouldn't give grudgingly or because we feel like we have to. Neither should we give because we think we will be blessed and gain more back. These are completely wrong attitudes, and God can see them. He always looks on our hearts, always knows what we're thinking, and always knows why we do everything we do. Whenever we give, it should be out of love. That's why God loves a cheerful giver. When you give out of love, you realize it is better to help someone else with what God has given you than store it away. It truly is a great blessing.

Now, some would say that this only applies to spiritual wealth. They would say giving your material things away for God's glory is good, but it will only result in spiritual rewards. I do not believe this is so. We certainly will be blessed, grow spiritually, and receive rewards in Heaven, but we will also receive repayment here on earth. The text verses mention nothing about spirituality, though they could certainly be interpreted that way. The basic application is that if you give materially, you will also get back materially. We know that God has promised to provide every need for His children, so when you give of yourself, you can have faith God will still provide for you.

It is vitally important, though, that we make sure material things are not our focus. This should never happen. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal" (Matt. 6:19), "for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Luke 12:34). "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (Colossians 3:2), for "the life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment" (Luke 12:23). Also, we must make sure than when we give, we focus on meeting a person's spiritual need instead of just his or her physical needs.

Lastly, we must give responsibly. Although God has promised to provide all we need and assured His blessing on those who generously give, it doesn't mean we can empty our bank accounts, sell all we own, and give everything away. Faith is crucial to the Christian life, but God gave us common sense for a reason. When I left for college, a friend wrote in a card he gave me, "Always have faith in God, but don't try to cross a street blindfolded." Will there be times in life when you have to step out blindly in faith to follow God? Yes. I've experienced them myself. But simple charitable giving is not one of them. When we give, we must utilize the common sense God granted us. Remember that it's biblical wisdom to save, just not to hoard.

So let's summarize what we've learned:
  • God uses paradoxes to show us His ways and thoughts are higher than ours and to increase our faith
  • God will bless you if you give, both materially and spiritually
  • We should never give grudgingly, because we feel we have to, or in order to get a reward, but always out of love
  • Our focus should not be on material things, but on spiritual things
  • We must make use of common sense when we give
How's your giving? Are you tithing? That's very important. Do you give to love offerings, charities, Christian ministries, visiting speakers, or missionaries? How about your motivation? Are you cheerfully giving out of love because you truly want to meet someone's needs? Or do you do it because you think you have to or to be seen? Be sure to examine these areas in your life. Giving doesn't have to be financial, either. You could donate clothes, cans, or food to someone who needs them. And the greatest gift of all is your time and yourself. Try volunteering at local ministries. I promise, you will be greatly blessed.

In closing, there is one more thing paradoxes teach us about God. They show us that God can, in fact, reconcile two contradictory things. The ultimate example of this is the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, He made it possible for sinful man to be reconciled with righteous and holy God. These two can now be brought into a harmonious relationship. It is unthinkable and impossible in man's eyes, yet perfectly possible--and greatly desired--in God's. Have you been saved? If you died today, do you know for sure you would go to Heaven? Click the Salvation tab above for more information.

Thank you for reading, and God bless you as you seek Him. Hope you to see you next week!

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