Things can get awkward fast when the topic of generosity comes up in church.
Why? Why do we get so antsy talking about it? Furthermore, why do we so often feel that twinge of guilt just before we give in some way?
Generosity is a foundational principal of Christian life and following Jesus. It is also one of the Core Values of IDES. This post is the second in a 7-part series on our Core Values.
I do not want to get too "preachy" in this post for this reason: I am not the most generous person who has ever lived. I am still learning the principal, and I am still practicing how to implement it throughout my life. But, for the sake of learning together, I want to point out one key passage of scripture on generosity, and share a few quotes from one of my favorite books. Perhaps these items will alleviate that awkward feeling the next time you have the opportunity to be generous and/or talk about generosity.
In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul writes about generosity. First, some context: between the AD 40s and the AD 50s, the time that Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthian churches, the region of Judea was experiencing widespread famine, including the great city of Jerusalem. The churches in the famine-stricken region were suffering terribly. Paul and his mission partner Barnabas took up an initial collection for relief from the churches in Antioch, and delivered the aid around AD 46 (Acts 11:27-30). However, the need was still great, and the believers in Judea asked Paul to encourage the other churches to remember them in their suffering during the coming years.
Prior to Paul's second letter to the Corinthian believers, the Macedonian believers (most of whom were desperately poor) expressed incredible generosity toward the Judean believers, taking up a collection of what little they had, even more than they could (or should) give at that moment, joyfully blessing their brothers and sisters in need with all eagerness (2 Corinthians 8). Paul uses the fantastic example from the Macedonian believers to encourage and motivate the Corinthian believers to do likewise. He writes this in 2 Corinthians 9:
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 9 As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” 10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. 12 For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. 13 By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. 15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
This is amazing! Quite frankly, I don't think I can add much commentary to Paul's incredibly clear words. Instead, I'll ask you a few questions. What promises from God do you see in this text? What will be the result of one's generosity according to this text? What does this text say about the amount or the frequency of generous giving? What kind of attitude should accompany generosity? How does this text compare with other passages of Scripture, such as the story of the widow with the two small coins (Luke 21:1-4), or the work of the early Israelites while constructing the tabernacle (Exodus 36:1-7)?
It is clear that generosity is not meant to be a guilt-driven, heart-breaking work. Instead, generosity is meant to be a joy-producing, God-glorifying work.
Think about it this way: What if instead of approaching giving with the attitude that, "God is requiring me to give up this (money / time / etc.) which I really do not want to give up," we approached it with the attitude of, "God is graciously inviting me to partner with Him in blessing those in need and offering me the chance to experience one of the deepest joys humanly possible."
Generosity is not a chore to be labored through, but rather a gift to be thoroughly enjoyed. When it comes right down to it, our generosity toward others is the only appropriate response to God's generosity toward us in Jesus Christ. It is a reflection of the Gospel itself.
To close, here are a few quotes from one of my favorite books on the topic, The Genius of Generosity, written by Chip Ingram. Perhaps you will find these as encouraging as I do during the moments I am making a decision about giving or not.
-written by Chase Cotten, Media Director at IDES