From Misery to Generosity

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Don’t worry, be happy. This is good advice to be happy. Do not be a worrier.

On the flip side, how does one get himself out of misery?

Answer: Do not be a miser.

Miser is just one letter short of misery. A miser is a person who hoards wealth and spends as little money as possible. Misery is great mental or emotional distress; extreme unhappiness; a cause or source of distress. A classic example of the miser is Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is Charles Dicken’s main character in his well-known novel – A Christmas Carol. It surprised me to know there are more than 20 actors who played Scrooge in movies and TV shows the most recent being Jim Carrey in A Christmas Carol.

Scrooge is a miserly stingy unhappy old man who dislikes Christmas precisely because he loves money and dislikes people. “His last name has come into the English language as a byword for miserliness and misanthropy.” (Wikipedia) Misanthropy is a new word I learned from a friend on FB. It means dislike for humankind.

How fitting that Dickens created Scrooge in the context of Christmas. Paul encouraged the Corinthians to be generous. The opposite of being miserly or stingy is kiam-siap in Hokkien. Kiam is salty and siap is rusty with much friction. Being stingy is like being salty and rusty.

2 Corinthians 8

1 We want you to know, brethren, about the grace of God which has been shown in the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.

Paul told the rich Corinthians to follow the example of the Macedonian churches – who gave generously even though they were poor. Remember how Jesus praised the poor widow who gave all she had to live on. It’s amazing reality that ironically, it is often easier for the poor to be generous than the rich.

7 Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us—see that you excel in this gracious work also. 8 I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.

Paul taught that giving generously is a ‘gracious work’ that we should learn to excel in. The Corinthians were to prove that they truly love by generously giving. Indeed one can give without loving but one cannot love without giving.

9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

Our ultimate example of giving is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Christmas is ‘the’ story on ultimate sacrificial giving. The Son of God; Prince of heaven; Creator and owner of all universe came down from His heavenly dwelling to be a helpless baby born in a manger, the son of a poor carpenter.

Lessons in giving…

Giving is a gift – by the grace of God (v.1). The grace of God enabled the poor Macedonians to give in spite of their difficulties, to be generous even though they were poor (v.2). The grace of God made it possible for them to give within and even beyond their means (v.3).

This thought of giving as a gift is shown in

The grace of our Lord Jesus – grace is a gift given to those who do not deserve it. Grace of Jesus is given to a sinner like me – that Jesus became poor so that I might become rich… rich not in material things but rich in generosity, in abundance, in a life worthy of His grace – to share with the people around me.

The grace of God motivated them: ‘begging us earnestly for the favour of taking part in the relief of the saints’ (v.4)

This phrase implies that…

Giving is a privilege – it is an honour that we should sincerely desire – even ‘beg’ for. Whatever wealth or material blessings that the Lord gives me, it is given in stewardship. It is a privilege to be given this trust – to manage His resources and share them to His children.

What a way to be happy – out of misery into generosity!

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