Every once in a while I’ll hear someone remark that somebody they know is “generous to a fault.” It’s always been a funny colloquialism to me because I never understood where the line between “generous” and “too generous” was. Moreover, who gets to determine it? It seemed that more often than not the line was drawn by the person making the remark when they felt that their friend’s or family member’s generosity was somehow going to impinge on their comfort, even if the infraction was just their feeling of guilt for not being quite as giving. Or worse yet, when they felt like there would be less generosity to benefit them.
The Bible, however, draws a very different line when it comes to generosity. It tells us that if “someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.” (Matthew 5:40). Most people don’t give beyond what’s asked to their friends, let alone to their adversary who is taking them to court. The next verse says that if someone forces us to walk one mile with them, we should go with them two, which is not the usual response when we are being cajoled into action. Scripture also tells us that we should “lend, expecting nothing in return” (Luke 6:35), an unheard of mentality in a society of interest rates and quid pro quo. We are commanded to give to those in need (Romans 12:13), and to be generous when we give (I Timothy 6:18). Giving too much doesn’t seem to be much of a concern in God’s Word.
But there was at least one time where it was a concern. In Exodus 36:6-7 Moses had to tell the people to stop giving. In fact, Scripture tells us that he had to “restrain” them from being too generous. However it wasn’t for the reason that we normally find fault with another’s generosity. It was because they had met the need in abundance. The Israelites had so graciously given of their possessions that there was no longer a need for any more of their gifts. They so wanted to participate in what God was doing that they were willing to go to great personal expense and sacrifice in order to do so. Until they had to be stopped.
Wouldn’t it be great if the same could be said of us? What if when someone accused us of being “too generous” it meant that we wanted to give beyond what the need was? What would the world say if we were so eager to participate in the work of God that that people had to restrain us from giving in excess of the problem’s capacity? What if we gave even when there was no longer a deficiency?
Who would find fault with that?