“There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered. He who withholds grain, the people will curse him, but blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.” ~ Proverbs 11:24-26
Proverbs offers practical instructions on using money, although sometimes we would rather not hear its advice. It is more comfortable to continue in our habits than to learn how to use money more wisely. Money is essential for living, but using our resources and the accountability for their use under God was part of God’s teaching to Israel. The relevance to our prosperous times is obvious.
People who believe that the whole earth and everything in it belongs to their Lord (Psalm 24:1) readily recognize that the resources of their lives, which, no matter how hard they labored and carefully they spent, were utterly dependent on God’s grace. God’s gracious blessings were given not to be hoarded but to be shared. When shared, they become like the unlimited supply of oil lavished on the widow in Elisha’s day (2 Kings 4:1-7).
Neighborliness is reason enough to help. But even more important was the blessing of God promised to those who generously gave to God’s work and people. These instructions on generosity sprinkled throughout Proverbs show us the ways and the people we are to help.
Proverbs 11:24-26 encourages generosity. The resupply of generosity demonstrates the principle of reward that God has woven into the fabric of creation. Proverbs 11:24 brings to light an apparent paradox or oxymoron. “There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more; and there is one who withholds more than what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.”
By giving freely, a person has plenty, which is a seeming paradox (2 Corinthians 9:6). Conversely, a person who is miserly, failing to help others in obvious need, will always be in need.
The one who gives, gains; the one who withholds, loses. A penny hoarded could be a penny lost. The strong verb “scatters” indicates distributing widely, generously, perhaps brashly, even paying little attention to where the generosity goes. Yet the wealth of the generous “increases” more than the amount given away. Like a seed that seems lost until it springs up again, bringing even more seed with it.
The selfish person has the opposite experience. He tenaciously withholds his goods, considering his responsibilities and his neighbors’ needs. When he finally opens his clenched fist, his increase has disappeared. What he deemed prudence “leads to poverty.” He wanted to ensure he had more than he needed ending in complete lack. The selfish person who sought to help himself only had pitiful results. Give and get or hoard and lose.
Proverbs 11:25 teaches that a reward for generosity is the enrichment of the soul. “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.”
By being generous, a person prospers and will be benefitted (Proverbs 11:17). A generous man is a soul of blessing (Proverbs 3:9-10; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Such a state comes as the result of blessing others by sharing blessings with them. The resulting prosperity describes an artesian well, pumping water into the gardens of others while continually having more than enough for its own. Jesus gives us a spiritual application of this in His sermon at Feast of the Tabernacles in John 7:37-39. The picture of water in more than abundant supply is especially striking when we remember that water was Palestine’s most valued agricultural commodity.
This is the same idea Jesus had in mind when He said, “Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38). This is certainly true when giving to the Lord and His work. It doesn’t make complete sense, except that God supernaturally blesses generosity.
How are we enriched? Not by hoarding but by giving; not by keeping but by sharing.
God’s offer to be “blessed” is extended to the person with a “generous eye.” He sees the need of the hungry and opens his hand to give them “bread.” A “good eye” in baseball is the skill to see the ball, judge whether it is over the plate, and lay the bat on it. A “good eye” in Proverbs is the knack for spotting a need and laying “bread” on the table.
In contrast, the “righteous” person escapes the sin of covetousness, not grieving over what he does not have but rejoicing in what he “gives” and gives unsparingly. One great gain of generosity is that it protects us from the soul-destructive preoccupation with greed.
The proverbs dealing with generosity are personal. We are reminded of how God has behaved in generosity toward us. The laws of cause and effect are not suspended in the behavioral and spiritual world. Good sowing means good reaping, and bad sowing, bad reaping. Yet this creation law is not the whole story. A personal God is at work, not only granting just rewards and fair punishments but using our acts of generosity to bring His justice and His compassion into the lives of others. With that privilege comes the obligation to bring surprises of grace into the lives of the needy with the same caring touch with which God has blessed us.
Our wealth is God’s gift to us and God’s means of helping others through us. We should understand that our position and abundance mean obligation, not privilege, service, not leisure, and generosity, not greed.
Questions for Thought
- Do you hold on tight to what God has given you, or do you have a relaxed grasp and obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit when ministry needs arise?
- Do you steward what God has placed in your care with privilege, leisure, and greed, or do you have a calling of obligation, desire to serve, and give generously?
Lord, give me opportunities to be generous. I commit to you; what I have belongs to you, and I have been entrusted to use it wisely. Help me to relax my grasp and to trust your Holy Spirit when I am prompted to invest in Kingdom work, share with those in need, faithfully tithe, and sacrificially give to ministry through my church. Thank you for providing what I need and abundance so that I can help others. Lord, I want to serve my family and church well by being prepared and developing a financial plan to continue giving when you bring me home to heaven. Help me honor you in my finances. Amen.
Guy Shafer is Associate Executive Pastor at First Baptist Dallas, serving as an integrator for ministries and operations and helping the church accomplish its mission strategically and effectively. He is also the champion and leader of the Stewardship Ministry at First Dallas. Guy has served in full-time ministry for more than 40 years. Married in 1985, he and Mary have two children and seven grandchildren, all living in the DFW area.