Sacrificial Generosity

"If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail." Isaiah 58:10,11
In our friendship with God we want to do the things that please him. Jesus shows us how to carry out a friendship with God. He is our primary example for he says, "I always do what pleases Him."John 8:29 and God says, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" John 17:9 One way Jesus pleased the Father was through his sacrificial generosity in atoning for sin on the cross. So also God has given us freedom to please him through our own sacrificial generosity. Notice for example how acts of generosity caught God's attention in the case of Cornelius. An angel appeared to him and said, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God." Acts 10:4 He was instructed to send for Peter and he and his household became the first Gentile Christians.

Now concerning generosity it is important to understand that generosity are acts which go beyond fulfilling one's obligation. For example tithing, as defined in the Law of Moses, is not an act of generosity. Tithing in accordance with the Law is an obligation. Paying Christian for doing ministry is not generosity, it is a wage which they earned. And "when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation." Rom 4:4 "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages."" 1Tim 5:17 So also when Jesus sent out his laborers he instructed them, "Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages." Luke 10:7

As such, one way in which Christians who do ministry can practice generosity is by simply doing ministry free of charge. That is an act of generosity. Paul said, "The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel. But I have used none of these (entitlements) ... What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge." 1Cor 9:14,15,18 And "We have not used this right (to get paid), but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ."1Cor 9:12 Thus not only is it an act of generosity but doing ministry free of charge communicates graciousness and overcomes hinderances due to people's suspicions of greed.

God has given us personal rights, such as rights to private property. Peter reminded Ananias of this fact concerning the property he donated, "Didnít it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasnít the money at your disposal?" Acts 5:4 When we freely give up our personal rights or personal property for the kindgdom of God and for the benefit of others, we are practicing generosity. And while we normally think of generosity as referring to money or property, there are other rights we can give up in the practice of generosity. For example Paul in mentioning his giving up a salary also mentions this "Donít we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles". 1Cor 9:5 But Paul had given up that right as well, in his generosity - going beyond his actual obligations to serve even better.

As to how much one should give, the Bible states it clearly, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2Cor 9:7 Once again let me remind you that this goes beyond meeting one's obligations. You have to meet your obligations no matter how you feel about it. But beyond that God allows us the freedom to give in accordance with our heart. If in practicing generosity you think of an amount to give or personal rights to give up, but you feel reluctant to do so - then don't do it. Don't be legalistic when it comes to practicing graciousness. So also if other people try to make you feel guilty and try to compel you to give to them beyond your obligation and regardless of how you feel about it - they have the wrong perspective about generosity. The receiver's job is to be thankful. They are not supposed to have a feeling of entitlement. Generosity which is not practiced freely - free from the sense of obligation - is not generosity.

Now as for the quality of one's generosity, Jesus says for example, "And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." Mt 10:42 Cold water was not all that convenient to obtain. It took effort to give someone cold water. Generosity will by its nature require sacrifice.

Realize also that God measures the degree of sacrifice - and thus the degree of generosity - relative to the person's situation. We see this for example concerning the woman who gave just two cents. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everythingó all she had to live on." Mk 12:43,44

Some Upsides of Generosity

There are alot of upsides to generosity.

1. It meets a practical need

2. It's contagious.

"For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action." 2Cor 9:2
3. It results in praise and thanksgiving to God
"This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of Godís people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.  Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else." 2Cor 9:12
4. Receivers pray for you
"And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" 2Cor 9:14,15
5. God takes care of his "givers" so that they may continue to be channels of generosity.
God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.2Cor 9:8-11

Secret Giving

Mt 6:2-4 When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Secret giving helps not only to suppress one's own vanity but also the envy of others. And if in Acts 4 and 5 the church had kept donations private, Ananias and Sapphira might have lived a bit longer.

Particular Instructions to the Rich

1Tim 6:17-19  Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.  In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Discussion Questions

In what ways has God demonstrated his generosity?
When the angel visited Cornelius in Acts 10, why did he mention his acts of generosity?
How might the generosity of non-Christians help lead them to Christ?
(See also John 3:21)
How is tithing related to generosity?
Besides donating money, what are other ways of practicing generosity?
What responsibility to receivers have in the practice of generosity?
How does God measure the degree of one's generosity?
What if you feel reluctant or pushed to give under compulsion?
Or how do you determine how much you will give?
What are some upsides to generosity?
What does it mean in Matt 6:2-4 to not let the left hand know what the right is doing?
What is the best investment rich people can make?

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jul 29,2015