God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, right? All things belong to the Lord, right? When we give an offering or a tithe, we are simply giving back to God a portion of what He already owns and has allowed us to steward. So then, why am I telling you to lend your money to God? Simple; it is the wise thing to do. After all, this is Wednesday Wisdom, and it would seem wise to lend to God.
Let me explain a bit further though. Solomon wrote, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed,” (Proverbs 19:17, ESV). I want to quickly break this down into four parts and then bring it back together and get a full view of what Solomon was stating.
When Solomon used the word for generosity he isn’t referring simply to the physical act of giving. He is referring to the inward desire to show compassion and grace to those who are less fortunate. A superb example of this would be Boaz. When Boaz met Ruth, she was a poor widow, gleaning grain from his fields. He spoke with her and instructed her to stay close to the other women, and not to go anywhere else, indicating he would take care of her needs. He response: “Then she fell on her face, bowing to the ground, and said to him, ‘Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner,'” (Ruth 2:10, ESV; italics mine)? The word used for “favor” is the same root for Solomon’s word for generosity. Why have you shown such compassion? Why are you so generous? Why have I found favor in your eyes?
Being “generous” is not simply throwing a $10 bill at someone on the street or by the exit ramp. This is looking at the person with compassion, and seeking to do what you can to alleviate the suffering that they are in as they live in their poverty.
Which takes us to the second part: the poor here those living in poverty. I would suppose that poverty is a relative term. What is poor in the United States is certainly not poor in Zimbabwe or Somalia. On top of that, we do enjoy luxuries that have become necessities in the minds and hearts of many around us. But there are necessities that people do have: food, clothing, shelter, companionship, etc. It is to those needs that we are to find compassion in our souls, seeking to alleviate the lack. We know that God continuously puts an emphasis on helping the poor throughout Scripture. There were national laws that were set in place to make sure they were fed. James tells us that true religion is caring for the fatherless and the widow (as in those days, they were considered to be ones who could not care for themselves and so come to a state of poverty).
But how is this “lending to God” when He owns all? Understand, there is much we can do with our money, time, energy, etc. Giving up a Starbucks coffee to help someone buy bread is giving to God as much as giving to the poor. We are participating with God in the survival of those less fortunate. In much the same way we could say that all sin is only against God (Psalm 51), we can say that giving to the poor is giving to God. While specifically speaking of believers, Jesus illustrated this concept of giving food, clothing, shelter, visiting the sick and imprisoned, was giving Him food, clothing, shelter, and visiting him when sick and imprisoned (cf. Matthew 25:31-46). To do to one is to do to God and Christ.
Giving yes, but lending? This word is used because of the second part of the proverb: “and he will repay him for his deed.” It is the idea of repayment that brings the idea of lending. We do without our money, time, energy, etc. for a while, but in the end it will be repaid in some way. To give with the expectation and reality of repayment is in itself a loan. Jesus reiterated this in Luke 6: “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you,” (v. 38, ESV).
What is given, God will be sure to bless back. That may, may! be financial, but it may be in other ways. The idea is not to get rich by “sowing a seed” or by “lending God money.” The idea is to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work (Colossians 1:10). Who can argue that living that way is not wise?
So let us have a giving-compassion within our hearts and souls toward those in poverty, knowing that by giving to them we are really in partnership with God in their survival and growth, and also knowing that when we live in such a manner worthy of the Lord, we will be blessed in return.