As the Gospel advanced in the book of Acts, there was an outbreak of generosity (Acts 2:46, 4:32-37, 11:27-30). Unfortunately, when we seek to live out generosity, we often do so out of guilt. When we enjoy something we feel bad, because someone needed “it” more. We wonder if we were less than generous for consuming a pleasure instead of sharing it.
For this reason, generosity requires the Gospel. Without the Gospel, generosity almost inevitably degenerates into another self-measuring, performance-based, or guilt-ridden effort “to do the right thing” to keep God happy.
Yet this is not the testimony of the book of Acts. In both cases, gladness or encouragement is mentioned in the immediate context of generosity and it is those who are participating in the giving who are glad (Acts 2:46, 4:36, 11:23).
In order to understand this transformation we must start with an unpleasant thought. You can no more be generous with something you don’t care about than you can be patient with something that doesn’t bother you. Generosity assumes value in the same way that patience assumes irritation.
So the question of generosity begins with, “What do you value most? What’s in your fave five?” For me, generosity would involve comfort, creative freedom, food, money, and order (my fave five in alphabetical order because I don’t’ want to try to rank them) more than entertainment, appearance, recognition, or hard work.
It’s not generous to give of the latter, because I honestly don’t care. I’d rather you choose, work hard, or someone else lead. It’s a borderline expression of my selfishness and release from a social burden. However, the former things are strongly attached to my sense of security, identity, and pleasure. These are hard to sacrifice. These often make me defensive, angry, and cause me to question those dare who encroach upon them (I’m mildly joking).
With that said, this is what drives me to the Gospel in order to have any enjoyment in generosity (which is a virtue and an attribute of God and, therefore, should bring us pleasure). I am challenged (and hopefully encouraged) to take Luke 9:23-25 seriously.
And [Jesus] said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
Generosity is not about letting go of my stuff, freedom, or preferences. Generosity is about changing where I find my security, comfort, identity, pleasure, hope, and rest. When I believe the Gospel, I view every aspect of life as a gift from God the Father, intended to be enjoyed and used to share His goodness (both/and, not either/or). When I neglect the Gospel I either get lost in my rights or try define the rules of “reasonable generosity.”
Either way, I lose joy. I am left to chose one of two outcomes. I can live angry, defending my rights, offended and fearful that anyone would infringe upon them. The alternative is to live guilty always wondering if I did it “right enough” and dry because even pleasure becomes a source of draining deliberation.
In a very real sense, God wants us to be generous for our own good. When the Gospel moves in mighty ways, Christians get this; the focal point of their life has shifted. If we would be generous people, let us not pray about our stuff or preferences, but that God would be central and that we would enjoy life as He presents opportunities to utilize His gifts to us.
If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Finances” post which address other facets of this subject.