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Love’s Generosity

Yesterday I had two experiences that reminded me about the nature of love. I read Nehemiah 5 and I heard the story of Shirley Van Epp. Shirley is the cross-country coach at Buckeye High School in Medina, Ohio. I am attending the Better Marriage Fiesta in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I heard her tell the story of an intense battle with breast cancer. Despite a double mastectomy, a full hysterectomy, chemotherapy, radiation treatments and numerous reconstruction surgeries, she never missed a meet and only missed one practice with her teams. That is what love does. When it grips your heart, you always find a way to do what is best for the people you care about. You can only imagine the inspiration her runners gained from her presence as running seemed like a small struggle compared to cancer. In addition, she gained from being around the team she was investing in. “To be around the energy and the excitement and the vibrance of young people is just encouraging in and of itself. It’s almost like they feed me life.” That was back in 2007. More recently, she donated back her coaching stipend and engaged in aggressive fundraising to help offset the $600 per runner participation fee that each of her athletes needed to pay for the privilege of being cross-country competitors. She doesn’t look at it as a big thing because this is just what love does.
In the same way, Nehemiah couldn’t help but be generous with the people of Jerusalem. No one coerced him to do it. No one demanded that he do it. No one even expected it from him. In fact, the anticipation was that he would take from the people to support his life as a governor for 12 years. Nehemiah couldn’t do it, however. He had the means to take care of his own needs and the people he loved had legitimate needs. Check out all ways he willingly gave to those he carried on his heart:

  • “. . . neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor.” (v. 14)
  • But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people . . . But out of reverence for God I did not act like that.” (v. 15-16)
  • “. . . we did not acquire any land.” (v. 17)
  • “Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations.” (v. 18)
  • “Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people.” (v. 19)

The only reward Nehemiah wanted was to serve and be remembered by God. “Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people.” (v. 20)
This is the operational test of true love. When you love someone, you will give. You can’t help it and it would never occur to you to do otherwise. It is not an obligation or a burden or an imposition. You consider it a privilege and you are disappointed you cannot give more. Our world is filled with people who say they love but then use the sentiment to take from others. It happens in politics, organizations, marriages, families, dating relationships and friendships. When our generosity proves that we truly love others, people can’t help but take notice because it is in sharp contrast to the majority who would rather take. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35).
Lord, give me the grace to prove my love through willing generosity.

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One Response

  1. Wow. Outstanding. And convicting. Lord, help me to love more like Nehemiah, the way that you love me.

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