The title of this post should cause you to pause. Lending to God—isn’t that saying there might be a time that God needs something and so we are to let him borrow it? But God is self-sufficient and self-sustaining, indeed the One who gives sustenance to others (Acts 17:24-25). So how can we lend to God?
Solomon wrote in Proverbs 19:17:
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deeds.
To be generous is to freely give of our own resources to another, expecting nothing in return. Again and again the Bible calls us to generosity, even using an apt illustration of a hand that is open wide, not clinging but freely giving, in order to help the poor and needy (Deuteronomy 15:11). This reflects the generous nature of our God who has given us himself in Jesus.
The all-generous God who calls us to generosity needs nothing. We cannot in fact lend to God. Yet at the same time we can. In this proverb, Solomon captured a truth we find more explicit elsewhere in the Bible: God so closely identifies with people, and especially his people in Jesus, that what we do to them is as if we do it to him.
Jesus captured this truth in Matthew 25 speaking on the final judgment where he will say to his people, his sheep:
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (25:34-36)
His people then ask When did we do all of this?
Jesus said, “The King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’” (25:40)
As we do to others, we do to Jesus, to God. The proverb says that in helping the poor we “lend to God” and that “he will repay.” This means there is reward in generosity. This isn’t reward from the people we have given to. Neither Solomon nor Jesus tells us to expect back from the poor and needy we help—that would not be generosity. But there is reward from God himself.
Sometimes we may see that reward in this life (2 Corinthians 9:6-10, which speaks of a financial reward that should lead us to be even more generous), but for certain we will see this as an eternal reward (Matthew 25:34, 19:28-30).
So lend to God by being generous to others, and especially helping those who are in need.
This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.