The most ENORMOUS little subject in the Bible
by GenerousChurch | July 3, 2013
Generosity feels like such a small topic.
It feels small in terms of annual preaching and in terms of overall impact on the church. I mean, honestly, it is important for people to give…but is it really important for church leaders to take a long, hard look at generosity? Is there even enough Biblical material on this subject to make it worth a “deep dive?” On the scale of faith topics, this is one that seems gnat-sized. It hangs around just enough to bother us and distract us from things like love, faith, family and the “big” doctrines of faith.
At least, that’s the way it feels.
For some reason, recent scholarship has made us feel like generosity is a take-it-or-leave-it subject for the church. We know that the church needs money to operate, but we don’t really know how generosity impacts our spiritual lives. We know that God calls us to be generous for the good of others (i.e. The Good Samaritan), but we don’t really understand why generosity is good for us…or even if it’s good for us.
So, how important is this topic in Scripture? Does generosity really matter as long as all of the healthy, growing ministries are properly funded?
Here are five reasons that Biblical generosity will stay at the forefront of the church:
1. The kingdom of God is often experienced – or missed – because of generosity.
Remember this – Jesus spoke more about the kingdom than He did about heaven, hell, salvation or almost any other subject. And according to Jesus, the “gate” to the kingdom is often related to money and possessions. For instance, in the Parable of the Sower (a kingdom parable), Jesus says, “The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22). For other instances, see Matthew 19:16-25, Matthew 6:31-34, Matthew 13:44-46, Luke 19:11-27 or Matthew 25:14-30.
2. The Gospel comes riding on the back of generosity.
John 3:16 captures the Gospel in a sentence and clearly states the vehicle that God chose for the delivery of His good news: “For God so loved the world that He gave…” There is no way to comprehend the Gospel apart from generosity. He gave Himself. He stepped into the mess of humanity as an infant and purposed to trade His eternal inheritance for our place in death. Beyond that, He extends the forgiveness and grace that are necessary for us to receive the Gospel. So, from the onset of the Gospel to its eternal conclusion, it is characterized by generosity.
3. Generosity is one of the primary defining marks of discipleship.
In Luke 6, Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back” (Luke 6:27-30).
Later in that same passage, Jesus explains His reasoning for this radical call to generosity. In verse 35, He says, “Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” In other words, Jesus notes that as we become radically generous, people will perceive that we are pupils and imitators (disciples) of the Most High God.
4. Generosity has been God’s plan from the beginning.
Genesis starts with the words, “In the beginning, God created.” Can we quickly dispel a light-hearted myth? God was not lonely. He did not create because He was lacking in some way. In fact, many scholars agree that He created to share…to give. He created us in order to share His love and joy with us. In the beginning, God sought opportunities to practice generosity.
5. Generosity characterizes the end of the world (as we know it).
As Scripture comes to a dramatic conclusion in the book of Revelation, God is still giving. The created world is not thrown away in a fit of justified rage, but it is redeemed. It is bought back for our pleasure and for His glory. It is re-created and re-fashioned – not because God needs this, but because we do. Revelation 21 says, “God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4).
That’s a subject of Biblical proportions. And apparently generosity only looks small when we are looking at it through a highly restricted lens.
So, how can you unleash this God-sized subject in your church?
To see how God’s generosity is portrayed in all sixty-six books of the Bible, see “Generosity through the Bible.” And to see how the study of Biblical generosity can change your church, read “1 Way to Be the Church.”
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