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. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Don't Be a Scrooge

Photo by Peter E. Lee
What Is Stinginess?

Stingy. There's an old fashioned word that you don't hear used all that much in our modern day language. Growing up, I recall my mother using the word on a few occasions, and I maybe even heard it used in church. What is stinginess, though?

According to, the word stingy can be defined as reluctant to give or spend; not generous. A character from our culture that we could connect with this word and definition would most likely be old Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens's novel, A Christmas Carol. Dickens refers to Scrooge as "...a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!"

As our economy here in the United States continues to struggle and sputter along, I fear that more and more people are adopting a stingy attitude. They are reluctant to spend and give. I don't necessarily blame people for slipping into this mindset given the state of the economy, but as believers in Christ, we should be characterized by our generosity, not stinginess. Let's take a look at a couple of passages from God's Word regarding a stingy attitude.

The Old Testament

In Deuteronomy 15:7-11, God addressed stinginess with the nation of Israel:
If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.
In this passage, God through Moses commands the people of Israel to help any poor, fellow Israelites. He asks them to give generously without any reluctance. The Lord gives them the promise that if they will simply be obedient in their generosity to the poor, then He will bring blessing to all of their work. What an awesome reward for the simple act of helping others!

In Proverbs 28:22 we read, The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them. When we are tight-fisted and eager to be wealthy, then this is actually counter-productive to wealth creation. As crazy and oxymoronish as that sounds, I've personally experienced the blessing of God as I have kept an open hand and maintained a spirit of generosity even during times of financial difficulty. God's laws governing generosity really do work!

The New Testament

In Mark 7:20-23, we read these words from our Lord:
Then He said, "What comes out of a person - that defiles him. For from within, out of people's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immoralities, thefts, murders, adulteries, greed, evil actions, deceit, promiscuity, stinginess, blasphemy, pride, and foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a person (HCSB).
In this particular passage, I find it interesting that stinginess is listed along with some pretty grievous sins. Jesus tells His followers that the root cause of all of these sins come from within us. We are defiled because of the sin that spews forth from inside of us. Jesus considers stinginess to be a significant enough problem, so He lists it with these other sins.

So, Are You Stingy?

The only solution to stinginess is generosity. In A Christmas Carol, the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge takes place after he can visualize the past, present, and future results of his stinginess. Once he finally gets the vision of how is attitude and actions are affecting the lives of those around him, he knows instinctively what he must do. He needs to be generous with his time and money. He becomes a joyful, hilarious giver!

So, how about you Christian? Do you cringe and mutter "Bah Humbug" whenever the pastor and church leaders at your church talk about church finances and giving? Are you holding on to all of "your" money with clenched fists and a clenched jaw saying "It's all mine, and you can't have any of it!" Or, when you run across someone in need, do you look the other way and ignore the need?

All of us have little "Scrooges" living inside of us because we are fallen human beings living in a fallen world. Fight the Scrooge inside of you. Push back against stinginess. Live a life of generosity.

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