Faith and Family Business: Proverbs and the Paradox of Generosity

By Bill Long on February 15, 2016

For years I wondered how the following verse could be true: “A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water” (Prov. 11:25). I wondered how it could be true because I was brought up in a family that was very strict on numbers. My father was an accountant; a brother is an accountant; my son is an accountant. I hear their words ringing in my ears: “Bill, there is no way if you give things away that you will have more than when you began giving.”

     So I lived with an inner tension for years on this subject until I began to realize that, for the author of Proverbs, there is a “double recipient” for our gifts of generosity. Let me explain. 

     When we give, we have a target in view and, in the Book of Proverbs, this should be someone who is less fortunate than we are. They can’t repay. That is the first recipient.

     But I also realized that every act of generosity, every gift of our resources, is also a gift to God. Listen to Proverbs: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full.” In fact, our gift functions as a “loan” to God. At least that is how God considers it. And, look what God does: He “repays in full.” I confess, I don’t know the exact mechanism of how this works, and my accountant relatives might still have some skepticism, but in God’s “double-recipient bookkeeping” system, all generosity is repaid. Have you experienced that in your life? Your family business? Are you courageous enough to try it?