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Understanding Generosity

In the coming three weeks we’ll be discussing biblical principles around generosity. Let me start off by saying that: generosity is not all about money. When Jesus teaches on generosity, He talks about it in much broader terms. He points to something bigger. Essentially, generosity is “love put into practice.”

We Dutch people have two words for ‘generosity’ (which is funny, because we are not really known as the most generous people on the planet). There is ‘vrijgevig’, which literally is ‘freely giving’ and there is another term is ‘ruimhartig’, which means ‘having a room in your heart’. It is in these terms that I’d like to approach this topic.

Jesus is calling us to a generous life where we freely give from our time and energy and money. He is calling us to have room in our hearts for people inside and outside our community and to pray for them and be available to them. In the passage that we will discuss, Jesus is calling us to a baffling level of generosity which will be a lifelong challenge for us.

Luke 6:27-35a (NLT)

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great.

Who does this? Who actually turns the other cheek? Or prays for their enemies? Who gives without expecting anything back? What Jesus is teaching in this passage is absolutely revolutionary! It was back then, and it still is today.

We’re going to discuss three important principles of generosity that come forward in what Jesus is saying here and in the verses that follow, which we’ll read later.

1. Generosity is sacrificial

We all understand that we need to do good. That politeness, hospitality and care for each other is important. But the generosity Jesus is teaching here goes far beyond just doing good. The type of life and love put in practice Jesus is calling us to here requires His love to work through us. We’re not going to be able to pull this off out of our own willpower or love as a felt emotion.

There are a lot of people that do good for others and want to make the world a better place for everyone. Just being good instead of evil should be a no-brainer. You don’t need to have experienced the overwhelming love of God just to do good things.

Jesus is calling us a generosity that considers the gain, not the cost.

True generosity is sacrificial. If it doesn’t cost you anything, it is just doing good. But when we freely give away from what we have to benefit others instead of ourselves, that’s generosity.

Couple of small examples:

Doing good = getting your colleague a cup of coffee

Generosity = also buying him a snack

Doing good = shoot up a prayer when you hear someone isn’t doing so well

Generosity = getting down on your knees in prayer to intercede

Doing good = calling up someone that’s going through a rough time

Generosity = visiting and bringing a home cooked meal

These are just small examples from daily life, but they point us to bigger life choices where we choose to use what we have to bless others. When we start to practice generosity in these small things, it will begin to characterize who we are.

I came across a story recently in my Bible in One Year reading about Mother Theresa, who lived as a nun in Calcutta, serving the poor there. At some point, someone noticed how she had such mis formed feet and wondered why. When he asked someone working for the mission, it was explained that whenever people donated shoes for the Missionaries of Charity, she let everyone choose which they wanted, and then only took the shoes or slippers left behind. Often, these were too small for her feet, but she didn’t mind. I just think this is a stunning example of what it means to be sacrificially generous.

When we give sacrificially, we reflect God’s generosity.

Our ultimate example in generosity is Jesus. We don’t only see this revolutionary generosity in his teaching, but supremely in His life. It was this generosity that drove Jesus to the cross, not considering the cost of dying a painful death, but the gain of people being restored to relationship with the Father.

2. Generosity points people to a generous God

Jesus is calling you and me to pursue this type of generosity because He wants us to reflect the generosity of God.

Verse 35b-36

You will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

The generosity that Jesus is describing and that He is calling us to, is really the generosity of our God. He loved us while we were still sinners, even to the point of death. Jesus reveals God to us as a God that freely gives grace and forgiveness, that provides for our needs, heals our sickness, restores our brokenness and is incredibly patient with our stubbornness. And so, having received all these things from Him, Jesus now calls us to reflect what we have received to the world.

Our generosity points people to a supremely generous God.

What would happen if Christians all around the world would be known for their generosity?

Jesus speaks so passionately about generosity because our God is a generous God and He wants His people to be generous people, and because our generosity can ignite a revolution.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we as Christians approach apologetics – the defence of faith. For a long time, we have done this through rational arguments around the existence of God, the trustworthiness of the Bible and the proof of the resurrection, and this has been good. We’re discovering that science is not the enemy, but that as we explore the beauty of everything that is, this should point us to the Creator. But the world is changing. Our society is known as post-Christian, post-truth and post-modern. Something is missing, because all the arguments I just mentioned are replies to modernity.

In this post-modern world, what we need is a lived apologetic, where the life and teaching of Jesus is reflected in the community of believers. Where there is consistency in what we practice and what we preach.

When our lives show the outrageous and contagious generosity of God, it will make people more receptive to receive the Gospel and it will make the Gospel more believable to them, because they see it lived out through those who profess it.

3. Generosity unleashes blessing

Before you tune out, I’m not here to set any false expectations about overwhelming financial blessing when you choose to live generously. The prosperity gospel is a false gospel. It is the result of mixing materialism and greed with the promises of God.

The prosperity gospel says that having in abundance is a sign of God’s blessing and His stamp of approval on the way that you live. That’s nonsense. We don’t give in order to acquire God’s blessing. Try to explain the prosperity gospel to Paul and see how that turns out…

I’m here to present the Generosity Gospel to you.

Luke 6:38

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

Jesus is inviting us into a cycle, starting with His generosity. We have received the breath of life, and His grace even though we didn’t deserve it. In return, we live generously. We choose to no longer see our resources as our resources, but as God’s resources.

When we, like Abraham, put on the altar the things that are most important to us – even when we don’t understand it and we don’t see it – God will supply the need.

Living generously will unleash God’s blessing and favor on your life, so that you can be even more generous. We are blessed to be a blessing. How we handle our resources is a test to see if we could handle more. God’s blessing doesn’t raise your standard of living, but your standard of giving!

First things first!

Finally, let me turn to another powerful teaching of Jesus on this same topic, stressing why generosity is such an important topic.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NLT)

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Jesus knew how quickly we can get caught up in temporary things. But He is pointing out here that in the end, possessions and anything else we might gather for ourselves perishes. Through generosity, we express that we understand that stuff is just stuff and that our happiness and fulfilment and our worship is in completely other things.

We are not a people wondering around looking for the meaning of life. We’ve found it already! And so, we know that it won’t come from our stuff. This will liberate us to freely give away from what we have, using it to help others experience and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Notice that last verse: Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

So often we approach it the other way around. Only until something has caught our hearts or is completely up to our standards, we’ll become invested. Jesus is inviting us to first invest, and then see what it does with your heart. Especially when it comes to the Kingdom.

Jesus points us to where our generosity should be directed at first.

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

There is a promise that when we choose to live generously, blessing the people around us and also to His Kingdom, investing our time, talents, money, prayer and knowledge, we will lack nothing. Our generosity is a response to everything we have received from Him. And by putting His Kingdom first, we acknowledge that everything that we have comes from Him.

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