Summer Growth – G

Gratitude and Generosity 

We are setting out on our journey through the busy season of Summer Growth! Before we start, there are a few basic, foundational concepts that we need to have clear in our understanding.

  1. You are Worthy.
  2. It is God’s Will that you grow.
  3. You are equipped, by His grace, with all you need to grow.

The mental foundation stone of growth in character and spirit is the knowledge that you are worthy of growth. Our Creator stresses in His Word that each of His children is uniquely created and is of inestimable value in His eyes. This truth is not always reinforced by one’s earthly parents or circumstances and often much healing and nurturing of one’s wounded spirit in the love of Yeshua is required before the full truth of this concept can settle securely in one’s heart and mind. This may be a gradual process of acceptance, but at each stage of realization of one’s uniqueness and value a deeper “setting apart” of oneself to God can occur. What does this mean? The verb ‘to set apart’ in Hebrew is le’kadesh – to make holy. In the Bible, the first implementation of this occurs when God sets apart the seventh day of Creation “to make it holy” (Genesis 2:3). The Sabbath was set apart for His particular and holy purposes. Likewise, in Messiah, once a person is born into the Kingdom of God one is set apart from the world’s kingdom and is devoted to the will and purposes of God the King. We are able, in Yeshua and the power of the Holy Spirit, to start walking in the particular path our Father has prepared for us and doing the deeds that He prepared for us from the very beginning. “For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

As any loving and caring father, our Father in heaven wants with all His heart to see His children grow in strength and maturity; to become all He knows they are able to be. All the potential is already planted in us, like seeds of His love. As He says: “I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). In our Father’s eyes, you are worth investing time, energy, planning and effort in, so that you might grow more and more in His image and become the person He created you to be. All your spiritual potential can blossom in beauty and can produce an abundance of spiritual fruit. That, at the end of the day, is what brings most joy to our Father’s heart!

With all the pressures of the materialistic world around us, and the constant bombardment of commercial advertising, it is important to remember that our true value is not determined by our external trappings. As Paul emphasizes: “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12). Possessions, importance of position or the work one does, wealth or lack thereof, marital status, good looks, natural talents, etc. etc. are not the true measures of worth in our Father’s Kingdom. Overdue concern with these things, and being caught up in the worldly “rat race” with its competitive basis for judging value, will cause us to lose sight of our essential value and our true and unique identity can be lost.

As a child of God, every person is created in His image and is beloved in His sight. This truth gives us an intrinsic worth that should be nurtured, safeguarded and cherished. When this is done, each child can grow in knowledge of Him and become the fullness of who He created them to be.

G 1First Stage of Growth – Gratitude and Generosity

“Have an attitude of gratitude!” sounds like a cliché these days. However, there is great truth in the fact that gratitude is an attitude of the heart; one that significantly affects one’s approach to life and, consequently how one lives.

Possibly the greatest biblical example of living a life of gratitude is King David. Through his psalms, he poured out his heart to our Father God. They were songs written in times of joy and despair, yet they always expressed a foundation of love and trust. Throughout the psalms there is a strong connecting thread of gratitude to God for life itself and for the sure knowledge of His constant care and unchanging goodness. A small selection:

I will give thanks to YHWH, the Lord, with my whole heart… (9:1).

The Lord, YHWH, is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him (28:7).

It is good to give thanks to YHWH, to sing praises to Thy Name,
O Most High… (92:1).

I bow down toward thy Holy Temple and give thanks to Thy Name for Thy steadfast love and Thy faithfulness; for Thou hast exalted above everything Thy Name and Thy Word (138:2).

The Psalmist echoes God’s response:

“He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors Me; to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God!” (50:23).

God loves a cheerful giver!

A direct result of true gratitude is the desire to give. One cannot be sincerely grateful for the abundance of God’s gifts and provision and at the same time be a selfish hoarder. The Bible also exhorts us to give cheerfully. (2 Cor. 9:7). The ‘doing’ of giving is highly important, but maybe even more so is how we give. If one, for example, gives to a beggar one should give in a kind and encouraging manner. The great ethicist Maimondes writes in his code of Jewish law:

“Whoever gives charity to a poor man ill-mannerdly and with downcast looks has lost all the merit of his action… He should give with good grace and with joy and should sympathize with his plight…
(Mishnei Torah, “Laws of Gifts to the Poor” 10:4).

When our giving comes from a grateful heart, we can offer our gifts to others with a cheerful countenance and a caring, gracious attitude.

Generosity is described as having a “good eye”. To look away and ignore the needs of others is therefore considered a “bad eye”. An example is found in Proverbs: “He who gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse” (28:27). Our spiritual ears are also important! Singer and teacher, Shlomo Carlebach, was convinced that we are in spiritual danger when we ignore the plight of the poor. He said, “If your ears are not open to the crying of the poor, then your ears are dead, and you will not hear God calling you either.” [1]

The Hebrew term for giving money or goods to the poor and needy is tzedakah, charity. Tzedakah, according to God’s Word, is a duty and not an option. A righteous, godly man is described as: “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor…” (Psalm 112:9). In Judaism, while the giving of charity is a regular part of life, performing acts of kindness (gemilut chesed) is esteemed even more highly. In the opening chapters of the Torah the first act of kindness is performed by God Himself when He clothes Adam and Eve after they have sinned (Genesis 3:21). Again, in the closing chapter of Deuteronomy, God performs an act of kindness in burying Moses (34:6). In fact, doing an act of kindness on behalf of one who has died, such as contributing to the burial of one with no means, or helping to take care of the person’s goods or affairs, is considered the highest form of kindness for the person cannot repay you.

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, in his inspiring book on “how to lead a decent, kind, and honest life in a morally complicated world,” draws attention to an excerpt from the Talmud:

Acts of kindness are greater than charity in three ways:
Charity is done with one’s money, while kindness can be done with one’s money or with one’s person [e.g., visiting a sick person];
Charity is given only to the poor, while kindness can be done to both the poor and the rich [e.g., consoling mourners];
Charity is given only to the living, while kindness may be shown to both the living and the dead [e.g., arranging a pauper’s burial]. [2]

Telushkin comments, “Therefore …offering one’s time and one’s heart represents the highest type of giving.” [3] Let us constantly be alert and keep our “good eye”, and our ears, open for opportunities to do acts of kindness, even when it requires extra thought and effort. In so doing we imitate the acts of our Father God, who is the ultimate Giver. May we open our hearts, and our hands, to be more ready and cheerful givers.

There are various forms of giving to consider.

  1. Material Giving – Planned donations to charities; gifts to family, friends and neighbors; spontaneous acts of kindness to those in need.
  2. Mental Giving – Share thoughts and ideas; teach others what you have learnt.
  3. Emotional Giving – Share feelings (this also can be done non-verbally, a smile and/or a hug works wonders!); give verbal or written affirmation and encouragement.
  4. Spiritual Giving – Pray – speak and listen to our Father, intercede for others; worship; give counsel; mentor and raise up disciples.

When our hearts are filled with gratitude they overflow with the desire to give generously. Amazingly, the more happily one gives the more our Great Giver provides us with and the more we are equipped and able to give. As Paul records so succinctly in his epistle to the Corinthians:

The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance
for every good work (2 Cor.9: 6-8).

~ Keren Hannah Pryor

Footnotes:

1. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, The Book of Jewish Values, Random House, NY, 2000; 410.
2. Ibid; 8.
3. Ibid; 8.

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