Generosity and the 'Fully Fulfilled' Life
The most generous act in the whole of history is recorded in John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (NKJV). God was so generous toward us that He chose to impute our sin to His Son who suffered unimaginable physical, mental and spiritual pain to become the once-and-for-all sacrifice that released us from eternal damnation and into eternal life.
If we are to express the truth that we are created in the image and likeness of God, then we, too, must be known for our generosity.
Be encouraged! There is a spiritual principle that links generosity to provision.
There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
And there is one who withholds more than is right,
But it leads to poverty.
The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters will be watered himself (Proverbs 11:24-25, NKJV).
In the New Testament we read that Jesus said, ‘It is more blessed to give that to receive’ (Acts 20:35b, NKJV). The Greek word for ‘blessed’ means ‘large’ or ‘of long duration’. It is just like God to reward us both large and for a long time!
The words of Proverbs 11:24-25 are echoed in Galatians 6:9-10, And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially those who are of the household of faith (NKJV). Again, there is a link between generosity (‘doing good’) and increase (‘in due season we shall reap’).
In Hebrew thinking righteousness and generosity and are two sides of the same coin. A person simply cannot be righteous without also being generous. The Hebrew word used to describe the law concerning charity is tsedaqah, the root of which means righteousness, justice and fairness. Generosity is not optional – it has deep moral significance for Jews.
In some rabbinical thinking there are levels of merit concerning tsedaqah. In increasing merit we have:
- Giving begrudgingly
- Giving cheerfully but less than you should
- Giving after being asked
- Giving before being asked
- Giving when you do not know the recipient's identity, but the recipient knows yours
- Giving when you know the recipient's identity, but the recipient does not know your identity
- Giving when neither party knows the other's identity
- Giving to enable the recipient to become self-reliant
It is interesting that the last item in the list is the most meritorious. Giving that sets the recipient free from reliance on others and free to be generous toward others is the best kind of giving. This is the kind of giving associated with missional business - business that builds the capacity of people to be set free from financial lack.
It is a curious thing that one of the peak bodies, representing some 600 million Christians, saw fit to jointly establish the Global Generosity Network to inspire Christian stewardship, generosity and giving. That such an initiative was seen as necessary indicates that we might not be living life as generously as God intends us to. My friend, Dr Sas Conradie, is the Coordinator of this joint initiative of the World Evangelical Movement and the Lausanne Movement - see http://www.worldevangelicals.org/ggn/ for further information.
At IgniteLife Church we believe that generosity is as natural to the Christian as breathing. The reason is simple – we are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). When accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, in God's eyes our status changes from wicked to righteous. We believe that to be anything other than generous denies our righteousness and impairs our joy. We cannot be ‘fully fulfilled’ unless we outwork our state of righteousness in acts of generosity.
Questions for discussion
- Read Proverbs 23:6-8. In what ways is the miser contrasted with the generous one?
- Why do you think the most meritorious level of tsedaqah is 'Giving to enable the recipient to become self-reliant?
- In what ways might a business act generously?
The list of levels of tsedaqah above is from http://www.jewfaq.org/tzedakah.htm.