A couple of months back I shared some thoughts surrounding the topic of generosity and God’s instruction to, and enabling of, each of His people to live lives accordingly. Since then, God has continued to teach and show me things that have deepened my understanding and convictions related to the life He intends for me and those called by His Name.
Up until recently, I equated generosity with the act of giving – specifically the giving of resources or possessions. Though this is not entirely wrong, I think that such a definition is limiting and incomplete as well as potentially dangerous, in leading to a false sense of obedience and righteousness.
Generosity is not merely a transaction, or a series of transactions, but an overall heart position and lifestyle.
God leads the way in this all-consuming call. One of the greatest examples is found in John 3:16, a verse that most people know well. We often refer to it as a foundation of salvation, and that it is. But have you ever thought of it as a foundation of stewardship and biblical generosity? I want to challenge you to take another look at it: “God so loved the world that He gave.” Imagine the impact of this verse – or lack thereof – if there was no action associated, if it stopped simply by stating “God so loved the world.” He didn’t just tell us that He loved us, He showed us through generosity – by giving up that which was most precious to Him.
James talks about a similar concept when he says “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” He repeats this reality several times and right in the center gives a real-life example when he admonishes the one who wishes the poor man well but does nothing to address his hunger or nakedness.
Genuine faith, just like sincere love, results in action; a deep faith and Christ-inspired love result in generosity – a complete, passionate, and zealous generosity. This goes far beyond the mere act of giving.
What if we began replacing the word “generous” with “selfless” or “open-handed”? It changes things, doesn’t it? It’s now a life calling – a lifestyle – motivated from a right heart. It doesn’t just require 10% of my income, but the other 90% as well. It challenges my “charitable giving” – if it is good enough to give away and I have the money to replace it, why not reverse the recipients? It requires my time in serving, whether it’s convenient or not. It begs the question, how am I helping the poor and needy? It requires me to be constantly asking – of my time, talents, and treasures: how can I best love and serve another, the way I myself would want to be loved and served, the way Christ would love and serve?
I believe with all of my heart that God’s purpose for His people is to live lives of extravagant generosity, following His very example in doing such. I believe that as we do this we not only loosen the chains of greed and materialism but have the opportunity to join God on His mission to reach every man, woman, and child with the gospel of Jesus by being an active representation and reflection of His generous and exceptional love. And is this not what we are made for?
Ann Voscamp challenges “How can we claim Christ who paid it all and then lead a life that costs us nothing?” I hope and pray that as we grow in the knowledge and love of Christ, that the things of this world grow increasingly dim and that we more fully understand and live according to the all-encompassing generous life to which we are called.