Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.
Years ago I said something that still bothers me when I think about it. I had led a young couple to faith in Jesus. The husband earned a good living in his hairstyling salon. In the basement of their home he kept the barber’s chair that his deceased father had once used in a shop in another town.
His father’s chair was more than an item of nostalgia, however. My friend used the chair in his basement two evenings and part of Saturday each week to seat customers who couldn’t afford to see him in his shop. In this homey room my friend clipped and snipped the hair of the poor. Some, like me, he charged a nominal fee; others he waved out the door with a smile.
After one splendid haircut, I pulled out my wallet and handed him a note that was twice what he normally charged me. It was my smallest note, but he had no change. “Just keep it,” I said. “Next time I won’t have to pay anything.”
Indeed, as I stepped out of the chair after my next grooming session and reached for my wallet, my friend said, “Wait! You’ve already paid for this one!”
It was then that I said some horrible words: “If you had remembered that earlier,” I teased, “you wouldn’t have done such a good job, would you?”
A slight grimace furrowed my friend’s brow before he caught himself and laughed. He was a generous man, and I had treated his kindness flippantly by joking that mercenary demons drove his heart.
It seems like materialism is all around us, and it is not uncommon for people to be driven by need and greed. During the lean years that many of us experience , we can become selfish and cheap. Those attitudes can stick, even when resources grow and demands diminish.
God built safeguards into Israelite society so that debt wouldn’t dehumanize those who became trapped in it. But God also knew that some people would try to manipulate handouts and bailouts and other kinds of welfare for their own cunning ends. So he asked his people to be generous to the poor, even if the poor appeared to be abusing the gifts.
Generosity and graciousness are learned qualities. They must be caught from the example of bighearted souls. Like God. Like the widow who gave two very small copper coins—all she had to live on (see Mark 12:41–44). Like the disciples who shared their lunch with a crowd (see Matthew 15:32–39). Like my barber.
We must practice giving so that generosity becomes an essential part of who we are. And when we give, we’ll find that our generosity is rewarded by God, who will “throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it” (Malachi 3:10).