In the aftermath of Pentecost, the church was unabashedly generous. Luke, the author of Acts, tells us, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” Some have suggested that an early form of socialism was being practiced in Jerusalem, but I don't think that's what was happening at all. It's far more sensible to conclude that the Spirit “happened,” and in the wake of His arrival a people emerged who were capable of living in sync with the Jesus of the Gospels, our risen and ascended Lord. It was supernatural, all grace, and those who experienced it were “filled with awe.”
The idea that a Christian, a follower of Jesus, can exist without being or becoming generous is incongruous; it's incompatible with Scripture; it's also an affront to the Holy Spirit who indwells and empowers those who believe. In the lives of those who have experienced God's grace, generosity is the norm. As we approach the year-end giving season, here are five words that should shape how we think about and practice giving:
- Openhanded. This is a concept introduced to us by Moses in Deuteronomy 15. There he tells the children of Israel to be “openhanded” towards their fellow Israelites who are struggling under the burden of poverty. To be “hardhearted” or “tightfisted” — which are two sides of the same coin, really — does not reflect who God is or who we are as His children (Psalm 145:16; Luke 6:31).
- Blessed. In Scripture, there is such a strong connection between being generous and being blessed (Proverbs 22:9; Acts 20:35). Grace or blessing is poured out on those who give. For those who are unwilling to be generous there is no promise of favor. This state or condition of blessedness is experienced only as we renounce greed and selfishness and practice generosity.
- Cheerful. In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul tells us that “God loves a cheerful giver,” so when we give willingly, “not reluctantly or under compulsion,” we feel God's pleasure, His delight. There is a sense in which our joyful expression of generosity becomes another outlet for God to remind us that we are His children, beloved and blessed. Give with joy, for in doing so you imitate Christ (Hebrews 12:1-2).
- Love. To love the right things well conforms us to the image of Christ and results in generosity. To love the wrong things indiscriminately, without regard for the Bible's counsel, distances us from God and brings trouble. Jesus says that when we love money, becoming its servant, we cannot love God. As we practice generosity, we break free from the love of money and glorify God.
- Enriched. Every gift we have the privilege to give is a gift that was given to us by God in the first place. We are a channel through which the blessings of God flow. We were never intended to be a reservoir, hoarding what God has so graciously given to us — we were meant to share. According to Paul, we are “enriched in every way so that [we] can always be generous” (2 Corinthians 9:11).
What words would you add to this list?