In the film Yes Man, Jim Carrey goes from being someone who says ‘no’ to someone who says ‘yes’ – all the time, to everyone. He gives to everyone who asks, including everyone wanting a bank loan (he works in a bank)! Predictably, although it’s not all bad, Jim ends up in deep bother, particularly in romance. Eventually he concludes that it isn’t always good to say ‘yes’. It is okay to weigh things up and make a decision.
In Giving Without Guilt #1, I suggested 4 practical steps for working out how to choose where to give so that you can say ‘no’ without guilt – knowing you have already said ‘yes’ to your God-given giving priorities.
But doesn’t Jesus tell us to, 'Give to everyone who asks of you'? (Luke 6:30) I have heard of folk who, like Jim Carrey, operate on the principle of giving to anyone who asks - for anything.
When Jesus says ‘give to everyone who asks of you’, it seems, on the face of it, that Jesus is telling us to become ‘yes men’ (or women). But dig a bit deeper and we see that he is throwing out a much deeper challenge. It is made up of two parts: Jesus is talking firstly about people and secondly about parentage.
We must always read scripture in context, never pluck a few words out of the text and draw profound, life-altering conclusions! The context here is that Jesus is surrounded by a big crowd of fans (Luke 6:19). They were reaching out to him because ‘power was coming from Him.’ What must that have looked like? He had been breaking the rules, not least by healing on the Sabbath, and now he is healing the sick in droves, he is casting out demons, when all of a sudden he stops and launches into an extraordinary speech about an upside-down world where the hungry are satisfied, where we love our enemies, let people slap us and give to everyone who asks – using illustrations that would have resonated instantly with the crowd.
But the deep meaning of his provocation is: look people in the eye with grace, kindness and mercy because that reveals your parentage. Each of the situations he describes places us in the position of having to deal with the other person. It’s not about the hate or the slap or the money – it is about the person. And our response to the person reveals our parentage.
Jesus explains (Luke 6:35-36), ‘then you will be children of the Most High because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’ (Emphasis added.) When we behave like Jesus describes, person to person, we manifest the family likeness – we are children of the Father.
Not even Jesus gave to everyone who asked but he was constantly kind, merciful and full of grace – like his Father. Remember Peter the apostle’s reaction when he was buttonholed by the disabled man at the temple gate? (Acts 3:4-6) Just like he had been taught, Peter looked at the disabled man and demanded that he look back, eye to eye, person to person: this is not a financial transaction, I am not responding to your demand for money, but I am going to show grace and I am going to reveal my parentage; ‘In the name of Jesus, walk.’
Don’t fall for the thoughtless religious formulaic interpretation - it’s too easy to give money whilst still judging someone - it’s clear that Jesus is using hyperbole to make a point. He is not demanding that you walk around naked and penniless getting slapped by everyone. The whole chapter has seen Jesus doing and saying things that challenge the accepted order (healing on a Sunday, declaring blessing on those who seem to be cursed, giving to everyone who asks) all summed up in his famous command ‘Love your enemy’.
When faced with the person asking for money Jesus says to us, love them, reveal the Father’s grace, weigh things up with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and then make a decision that demonstrates you are a child of God. He goes onto describe what this looks like in verse 37ff, ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you.’