“I love your jacket,” says a friend. 
“Thanks, I got it on clearance,” is my knee-jerk response. 
“Wow, your home is so beautiful,” says another friend. 
“Thanks — it was pre-foreclosure, and we got a crazy deal on it” I explain. 

For nearly a decade, I have worked for an organisation that strives to end poverty, and it’s given me such a different perspective on how we live. But it also defensive.

Working for a charity, I feel the need to explain and justify the nice things I have. I worry that people will judge me or will judge the organisation I work for if I don’t drive an average car or get my clothes from an op-shop. And so,
I have developed a defensive need to explain away the fact that I don’t live in poverty. 

But I’ve come to realise that my justifications are creating a culture of judgment about the choices of others by my constant need to justify my purchases and assets.  

6-authentic-ways-to-be-generous-but-not-judgmental-plank.jpg

One of my favourite passages in the Bible about generosity is in 1 Timothy 6, verses 17-18. Paul says: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

What is interesting in this chapter is that Paul also says that God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” God provides things for enjoyment. The things are not inherently evil but were given as gifts. But the love of these things can become the root of evil in our lives. Therefore, we are to live generously, not putting our hope in things but in God. It’s a balance of enjoying the things God gives us, being generous, doing good, and not chasing riches. 

Viewing our possessions in this light, how can we be generous and compassionate, while refusing to create a culture of legalism and judgment for the way others live or the way we think they should live? Here are a few ideas. 


1. Reserve judgment. 

"Brothers and sisters do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them, speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you — who are you to judge your neighbour?” (James 4:11-12) 

It’s easy to look at a Christian living in a big home with a nice car and ponder, “how can they live in that house when people are starving?” Whether or not the criticism is valid, it is probably not your judgment to make it’s God’s. You aren’t privy to their bank accounts. For all you know, they may be more generous than you are. Another thing to note is that our perspective on wealth is relative. Someone living in extreme poverty might look at your house and wonder precisely the same thing. 


2Look to the plank in your own eye. 

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5) 

Rather than tending to the seeming lack of generosity of others, tend to your own heart. What is God calling you to do and how is he calling you to live? You’re more likely to influence others by your example of generosity and compassion than by a self-righteous attitude. 


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3. Remember that God calls us each to different paths. 

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10) 

God might be calling some to sell all their possessions and follow him, as Jesus directed the rich young man in Matthew 19. To others, he might have a plan to use them differently. What we know from Ephesians 2:10 is that he places each one of us in a unique context with unique skills and assets and calls us all to do good on his behalf. 

4. 
Don’t create a culture of judgment. 

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) 

Yes, I’m looking at myself here. Don’t be so defensive about your possessions that you make others uncomfortable, wondering if you’re judging them too. Instead, create a culture of grace around you. Allow people to see that you are generous, not because of a legalistic standard, but because of the love of Christ that overflows in your heart. 


6-authentic-ways-to-be-generous-but-not-judgmental-life-(1).jpg

5. Enjoy and be thankful for all you have. 

"Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (1 Timothy 6:17) 

Remember that what you have is a gift from God and you are a temporary custodian of them. Thank him for giving good gifts for you to enjoy, and give them back to him as an offering to serve him. 

6. Take hold of the life that is truly life. 

“Command [the rich] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:18-19) 
 
Remember that all this is really about following Jesus. Living for him and serving him. In doing so, we will have true life — not the elusive and transitory life that the wealth of this world can offer us — but the true, full and abundant life that Christ offers us. 

 
 

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