Generosity is, it has been noted, a virtue greatly to be admired, and one which is a bedrock of the Christian faith. “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” teaches Jesus, and all Christians, if they truly desire to be like Christ, who gave everything He had for us, should seek to be a giving people.
But what if you don’t have any money? What then?
Some, absent cash or coin, might assume that they are therefore under no obligation to be generous. Indeed, a pleading of poverty might be accepted by some as a valid reason to be somewhat tight with the little that one has.
Let’s leave aside, for the moment, the fact that most Americans are a lot wealthier than we tend to think we are. We are so busy comparing ourselves to those who have more that we forget about all that we do have.
And we will not mention, except in passing, the giving of the poor Biblical widow who, having only two mites, worth about half a penny, if that, gave her coins to the glory of God (cf. Mark 12:41-43).
But let us assume that we are indeed without any money.
In Acts, the third chapter, we find Peter and John on their way to the Temple to study and to worship. As they approach he temple, there is, sitting outside, a poor beggar asking for alms. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Peter and John to give the man money, showing the love of Christ. But, there was a problem. They didn’t have any money.
We might understand their own poverty if we give it a little thought. For over three years, they had been traveling with Christ, having quit their jobs. They had themselves been living off the generosity of others all that time, as disciples of Christ and as preachers. As Peter had once noted, they had left everything to be with Jesus. (cf. Matthew 19:27) While they had not starved, it is easy to see why they might not have had any coins of their own.
But as we read the account, what do we see? Peter directs the man to look at them, giving them his attention. “So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:5-6; NKJV)
Peter didn’t have any money, but that didn’t stop him from being generous. He had other things he could share. Jesus had blessed His apostles with many gifts, including the gift of healing. So Peter gave what he had the ability to give. Peter then proceeded to share something even more precious: The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Using that miracle as an introduction, Peter proceeded to preach a sermon to all in the vicinity.
It’s alright not to have any “silver or gold.” God does not require you to give what you don’t have. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to share with others.
The principle, “freely you have received, freely give,” does not apply just to money or material goods. In fact, when Jesus laid down that principle He didn’t really expect His apostles to be having much money. (cf. Matthew 10:7-9) But they had gifts to share, and they had a message of salvation that they could give to others.
In the same manner, when we talk about Christ giving to us, we recognize it was not an inheritance of silver and gold that He gave to save us, but rather it was His own precious blood. (cf. 1 Peter 1:17-19) He gave what He had, and it was a better gift than money ever could be.
Only a materialistic person assumes that generosity must be shown through material gifts. Granted, if we have material treasures, we should be willing to share them as necessary, but the
greatest gifts are never monetary in nature. This is a lesson we should never forget as we try to cultivate our own generous spirit.
Gifts of time, skill, knowledge, wisdom and love are just as important to give as food and clothing. If God has given you an ability, use it to help others. If God has given you wisdom, share it with others so as to help improve their lives. And if God has given you salvation, and the knowledge of how to be save, share that gift of grace with anyone and everyone who will accept it.
The church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions, please share them with us through our website: chapelhillchurchofchrist.org or, if you have the opportunity, stop by our fair booth at the Gallia County Junior Fair and say hello.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.