By Pastor Gary Keith
One of the enjoyable parts of the Christmas season is seeing people willingly and generously giving to others. In addition to Christmas morning, it happens in a variety of ways. For example, I’ve seen our local TV station fill busses with toys, I’ve seen the Marines sponsor a drive called “Toys for Tots,” I’ve seen urban organizations sponsor free meal giveaways and so much more. It does seem that a spirit of generosity comes out shining brightly at Christmas. And I’m sure this giving makes us all feel good about ourselves as we care and give to others.
I’m encouraged and inspired as I see people willing to think of others.
So is this what it means to live a generous life?
Every time I think about generous living I turn to the example found in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 (linked here for later reading). Paul is writing to the church in Corinth asking them to help out a struggling church in Jerusalem. In challenging the church in Corinth he used the example of the church in Macedonia who had already given to the need.
I think what we learn from this church defines what it means to live a generous life. Here are some of the key points:
- Generosity starts with acknowledging God’s grace and generosity with us.
- Generosity is not to be hindered by difficult times and severe trials–in fact, they were filled with overflowing joy as they gave under these circumstances.
- Their “extreme poverty” did not stop their rich generosity.
- They not only gave what they were able but even beyond their ability.
- They urgently pleaded to give.
- They saw giving as a “privilege of sharing” with the Lord’s people.
How did they do this?
- They resolved to do what God wanted them to do.
- They gave in obedience without hesitancy or under coercion.
- They were cheerful (literally the word means “hilarious”) givers.
- They understood the principle of sowing and reaping.
- They knew that God was able to bless them abundantly.
- They knew God could provide for their needs.
For most of my life in the church, I was taught that I was to give a tithe.
I came away from that teaching understanding that all I had to do was give a tenth and this would be enough. My giving became “works” oriented and legalistic. In giving just the tenth I felt I had done my part. But there was no heart in this–it was mechanical and lacked any ability to see God develop my heart of generosity.
But living a generous life is so much more than this.
A generous lifestyle is where I realize just how well God has provided for me that leads me, in return, to a desire to be a generous giver to others. Living generously is living gratefully and offering to others without worrying about getting something in return. It is gratitude in action. A generous life is a life lived with our hands open. A generous lifestyle is an intentional way of living that reflects a life touched by God.