A Priestly Nation

by

Several months ago my grandmother passed away, somewhat unexpectedly. For many days and weeks after she died, I had a deep sense of sadness as I mourned her death. I was close to her, having spent a great deal of time with her since moving to Orlando about seven years ago. When she died, I was able to be by her side in the hospital along with most of our family. I will always count that as a great blessing. Still, it is hard to believe that I will not be able to see her again this side of heaven.

As I reflect on her life, I am once again struck by her generosity. For many years she was an active member of the local church where she put her skills from years of teaching English to work helping tutor at-risk children from a local junior high school. Her love for Christ shone brightly as she ministered to the bodies and souls of these teenagers. Even when she was not able to attend her church as often in the past few years, I know that she faithfully mailed in her tithe to support the work of the kingdom. Grandma also gave money to several charities that worked to provide sustainable economic development in poorer countries so that the people there could become self-sufficient. Her willingness to give was also extended to her family. We could hardly ever leave her home without her trying to give us money or food of some kind.

I often had the chance to speak about philanthropy with my grandmother, and she would frequently remind me that whatever she had “was not hers anyway.” Ultimately, Grandma knew her job was only to be a good and generous steward of the gifts given to her from the Lord. She was well aware that “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1), and so she did not cling too tightly to any of the provisions He shared with her.

My grandmother was a Christian, but I do not know if she considered the story of Abram and Lot in Genesis 13 as a motivation to give freely. Yet I cannot help but reflect on that text as I consider her life and legacy. Even though Abram was promised a good land of his own in 12:1, he did not selfishly take the best parts of it for himself when disagreement between his servants and those of Lot’s clan prompted him to suggest a separation and division of the country. Confident that the Almighty would bless him far beyond his wildest imagination, he could selflessly hand over the best of the land to Lot without fearing a loss of his promised inheritance (Heb. 11:8–10). Because he was confident the Lord would keep His promises, Abram could freely give that which was not ultimately his.

is therefore evident that our generosity is always in direct proportion to our faith. Do we receive blessings from on high with an open hand from which they may easily pass to others? Or do we immediately close our grip and withhold God’s good gifts from others? Are we known for our faithful support of the kingdom, or do we have to be cajoled before we give even a fraction of what we have?

I am not speaking only of being generous with our finances, although the story of Abram and Lot certainly has bearing on this area. The greatest danger those of us in the West face is the temptation to enjoy our blessings too much. What I mean is that the rampant materialism in our culture makes it easy to embrace the same lifestyle of those around us. Of course, we cannot set some kind of legalistic code as to what standard of living is best for every believer. Yet the New Testament does support the principle that we must not live to the full extent of our means. How can we be the cheerful giver with whom the Father is pleased (2 Cor. 9:7) if we spend all our money on ourselves? Why does Jesus praise the widow, who gives only a little, more than the rich people who provide much for the offering (Luke 21:1–4)? The answer can only be that her giving was more generous in proportion to her income than what the rich offered as a percentage of theirs.

However, we can give from our wallets and still lack the generosity Scripture commends. Loving one another (1 John 4:7–8) means not only providing money for those in need, it also involves sharing our time, the most precious commodity. We can scarcely fulfill the law of Christ and bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) if we do not develop relationships in which we learn what those burdens are. Befriending the doubter and loving the unlovable are both necessary for obeying the apostolic mandate (Jude 22–23). All of these necessarily involve making time for others. Abram is a model in this area as well. He took the time to rescue his nephew after Lot was taken captive by Chedorlaomer’s forces (Gen. 14:1–16) and later spent time interceding on behalf of Sodom (18:22–33).

As we will see this month, Abram was richly blessed by Melchizedek (Gen. 14:17–20), and we cannot think this blessing was not linked to his generosity. Yes, the patriarch was declared righteous in God’s sight by his faith alone (15:6), but faith is praiseworthy (Col. 2:5) and is always evident in what we do for others (James 2:14–26). May we be encouraged and motivated by his life to give freely of all that we have so that we too may find a greater blessing from Christ Jesus, our High Priest from the order that first blessed Abram (Heb. 7).

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