Articles and books on generosity will tell you that giving generously is a good thing to do and we should all do it. However, they don’t tend to address the why of giving. The motivation to give will determine if we will be happy or reluctant givers. Without addressing this issue, givers are robbed of the joy of giving and the church is robbed of precious gospel resources.
So, why should all Christians show profoundly more generosity than those who haven’t tasted the salvation of Christ?
God Is Generous in Himself
Christians can be generous in many ways, including giving our money, time, energy, talent, as well as showing hospitality, sharing food, and other good works. Generosity overflows from our life in Christ. It’s a heart response because we are recipients of such amazing grace. We didn’t save ourselves. So, the logic follows that Christian generosity stands out from “normal” worldly generosity. In this sense, Christians should possess an unnatural and godly generosity—a cheerful, outrageous, and extravagant generosity. This kind of happy generosity ought to be driven by love and not pity. It shouldn’t be a reluctant generosity; Christians aren’t to give grudgingly. If our motivation is only to make ourselves feel better, the motivation is self-centered even though it’s meant for someone else. Therefore, the generosity itself cannot be cheerful because we’re in essence trying to buy cheerfulness.
Christian generosity is to be like that of our God. Yes, the unregenerate know how to give good gifts to their children, but how much more our heavenly Father who gives good gifts to His children (Matt. 7:11)? So, we who are His children share this overflowing generosity from our Father. We do to others what we would have them do to us. In fact, the Apostle Paul urges us to outdo each other in doing good to each other. How can any one of us actually live this out on a daily basis? How can we sustain this through our lives? It seems unobtainable to us.
God Is Generous in the Gospel
“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30–31)
These are the greatest commandments according to Jesus, since our good works flow out of loving God. Also, because we love God, we can love others as ourselves and do good works for their good. This is the overflow of generosity. It is the road map for how we can possibly achieve a profound generosity. First, we must love the Lord our God with all that we are—then and only then can we love others as ourselves. Not through a transaction; not for what we can get in return; but because we love God unreservedly. The psalmist in Psalm 119:32 declares, “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!”
We can keep the Lord’s commandments because we have a big heart for Him. We no longer have a selfish, self-centered heart. God gives us a heart of flesh that keeps growing in capacity for loving Him and others.
The sad conversation Jesus had with the rich young man in Mark 12 shows that the man loved his money and possessions more than the God he said he served. If he had loved God as he should have, he would have loved others, and the overflow would have meant that he would have been free to bless others, give all that he had, and follow Jesus. Instead, he went away from Jesus sorrowful. Truly generous giving is a healthy practice for Christians because it helps us prioritize our loves—we are to love God more than our possessions. Generosity helps keep our love pointing in the right direction to Jesus.
God Calls Us to Be Like Him and Fulfilled in Him
God wants us to be happy in life because He loves us. His Word says that the only way we will be happy is through knowing and loving the God who made us to love Him. The problem is that we often listen to what the world tells us: “To be happy, we need to prioritize security for family and retirement, then perhaps think about maybe giving a little if we have extra.” There is a corrosiveness that erodes our hearts in riches held on to and loved. It takes the place of our dear Savior Jesus. There is a happiness in giving money away, for we get to be like God, who is a cheerful giver and never reluctant. This is a wonderful unchanging truth about God.
God loves a cheerful giver because He Himself is a cheerful giver. Why? Because God is love. God is the Father eternally loving His Son through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. It isn’t a self-obsessed love but a giving, outflowing, and generous love. Flowing from the Father who sent His only beloved Son to pour out His all on the cross for us. Generosity is at the core of the Christian life and our experience of God. God doesn’t give sparingly; He gives us abundantly more than we can ask or think. We become more cheerful in our giving by giving like God, where His grace has been working in our hearts to abound in generosity to others.
Use this opportunity for self-examination and reflection. Writing this has challenged me: Am I generous enough? Are my motivations to give godly? May we image God and give cheerfully.