Generosity

Debbie Bryant

Generosity

Extravagant, Irrational Generosity.

Giving our finances is one of the atomic habits or disciplines of those who follow Jesus. Like the others, it has deep purposes for our hearts and intimacy with our Creator. Like fasting and prayer, it demonstrates to God that we recognize our need for him. Giving is also an unexpected source of incredible joy. Unfortunately, the teaching on this topic throughout church history hasn’t always honored why Jesus gave us this example.

Have you ever heard a minister talk about money or ask directly for money in a way that left you feeling manipulated or disgusted? If you said yes, I am sorry. That was never God’s intention. When human flesh and sinful desires get in the way, people can communicate a corrupted version of what God created as good and life-giving. It’s also possible for us to hold onto our money with such a tight fist that any mention of it causes a negative reaction. Neither experience brings us life. So let’s go back to Jesus. Perfect, sinless, selfless, and sacrificial – JESUS. Let’s look at what God says about money and giving and hopefully breathe some fresh revelation and life onto it. 

In the days before Jesus came to earth, God commanded his people to give the first tenth or “tithe” of all of their increase back to him. It displayed their faith in him to provide and it was an expression of their worship. Malachi 3:6-12 (written out at the end) is a great summary of this principle, and incredibly, it includes a promise to us for simply bringing to him what is already his. Once Jesus came to earth, he upgraded the command from giving a tenth to being willing to give anything that God might ask from us, up to everything we have. Does this seem radical? It is only if we don’t really know who God is or fully trust in his goodness and faithfulness. 

When we do though, surrendering everything to him actually means freedom and life for us. 

We give because Jesus said, “Follow me.” Of the many incredible things Jesus is and was while on earth, his surrender to his Father, his love, and his selfless generosity stand out. 

Directed by the will of his Father, Jesus was extravagantly generous with his love, his time, and his very life to the point of death. 

He gave it ALL out of love. He redeemed our lives with his blood. Imagine if someone you knew, a friend or a relative, did that for you – they somehow intentionally gave their life so you could live. It’s a sobering thought. Wouldn’t we want to live the rest of our lives in a way that would honor their sacrifice, so that they did not die in vain? Jesus did that for us! Justice demands that we pay for our sins. Jesus died to pay it for us. When this reality sinks in, giving him our whole life, obeying his commands, and imitating his example become an easy overflow of gratitude, reverence, and love for him.

God doesn’t need our money. He owns everything. (Psalm 50:10-12) 

Everything good actually comes from him (James 1:17). He is the Author of Life (Acts 3:15), and he wants us to enjoy it! He is Love (1 John 4:8), and his laws were given out of love. Like a parent teaching their young child not to run into a busy street or not to grab a toy away from a friend, God’s laws are guardrails intended to help us live in the fullness of his joy, peace, and hope.

His command to give protects us. He knows our hearts follow our money (Matthew 6:21), and he knows how much of a good thing we can handle before it becomes harmful to us. 

He knows that if anything other than God is the focus of our affections, it will end up hurting us. For those reasons, and for the very fact that he is the only one actually worthy of our worship, he will not share his throne. He must be first. He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5), and that happens to be a great thing for us.

God also designed us to experience delight and joy in generosity. When we live both responsibly and open-handed with the money God has entrusted us to manage, we get to be conduits of His blessing to others. 

A life of extravagant generosity can seem irrational to the rest of the world, but in the Kingdom of God, it can be a source of extreme joy and, simply put, a LOT of fun. When God sees that he can trust us to allow his blessings to flow through us, he continues to give us opportunities and resources to do just that. When we can be trusted with a little, we give God the opportunity to trust us with more and more. (Matthew 25:14-30)

“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 5:10

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” Hebrews 13:5

“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil, and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.” Malachi 3:6-12

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:6-10

Incredibly, the Lord’s Prayer is sandwiched between two discussions about giving and money. Jesus knows how tied our hearts are to our finances! His words in Matthew 6:1-4, &19-33 give instruction, hope, and beautiful promises:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you…

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”