Come Back Tomorrow?
Warren E. Berkley
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,’ when you have it with you,” (Prov. 3:27,28, NKJ).
This is a call to generosity but it is written as a prohibition (“do not”). Here’s a little “secret” of good Bible study: When you read a prohibition, spend some of your study time focusing on the opposite. So when you read, “do not lie,” think of the value of honesty. When you come to “do not forget” God’s law (Prov. 3:1), consider how important it is to remember God’s law. Every prohibition has some positive opposite. The point of the prohibition is not only to keep us from sin, but to take us to that positive opposite.
In this case, “do not withhold good” is a call to generosity, sharing, benevolence. Whatever we have that is subject to sharing, we should be willing to give with those “to whom it is due.”
The hard part of this is figuring out “to whom it is due,” or (NIV), “those who deserve it.” To give profusely to undeserving recipients is obviously not wise. But it is often not clear or easy to make those calls. Seems that the line between deserving and undeserving is not always easy to discern. But I would say to us these things:
1. God doesn’t expect us to see everything He is able to see. God can look right through the externals to the internal motives, and God has in His perfect mind – Instant Background Checks on everybody. God knows that we have no such powers. So there is no expectation that we have perfect knowledge of every prospective recipient of our goodwill. We can only act on what we are able to know.
2. Never cancel a duty because it is qualified. Could be, we become so obsessed with the qualification (“those who deserve it”) we just cancel the duty, thinking the work is too imprecise or demanding. Generosity (as directed by God) involves the hard work of wisdom, discernment, good stewardship and prayer; that’s part of the sacrifice of giving. Good responses to God and people are never subject to human anger, whim, greed or emotion. It should not become such a burden (deciding who is worthy), that we just toss the whole duty aside.
3. Don’t let your experience with the undeserving lead you to deny the deserving. Most of us have heard people say something like, “I gave this guy some help, and he turned out to be a thief. So I just don’t help people anymore.” That’s reactionary, creates suffering for the deserving and puts you squarely against the will of God. Your experience should never be the basis of your generosity. The basis of all giving is, you are a recipient of God’s grace and responsible to obey Him.