Keys to the Kingdom: Generosity
The Bible has much to say about generosity. The Scriptures portray God as someone who generously blesses his people. Jacob referred to this when he encountered his brother Esaau. The two had been estranged for many years and Jacob offered Esaau a large gift of different animals from his herds. At first Esaau refused the gifts. Jacob insisted that he accept the gifts, saying, "Please take my gifts, for God has been very generous to me." (Genesis 33:11)
Throughout the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, God's people are encouraged to be generous. In contrasting the wicked with the godly, the psalmist said, "The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers." (Psalm 37:21) Generosity is one of the words that is often used when describing godly people. An example of this would be Psalm 112:4, "They are generous, compassionate, and righteous."
One of the underlying principles associated with generosity, according to the Scriptures, is that those who are generous will be blessed. Proverbs 11:25 says, "The generous prosper and are satisfied; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." This does not say that the generous will become rich, but there is clearly a correlation between giving to others and receiving God's blessings in our lives. Jesus even said, "If you give, you will receive." (Luke 6:38)
Chris Willard provides an excellent definition of generosity. "Generosity is at its core a lifestyle—a lifestyle in which we share all that we have, are, or will ever become as a demonstration of God’s love and a response to God’s grace." Christians should be the most generous people on earth because they have experienced God's generosity to them.
The early Church practiced generosity. Acts 2:44-45 says, "And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need." The Church looked after its own. If someone had a need, others were able to pool their money and help the ones in need.
This lifestyle of generosity was what the Apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote to the Corinthian church about collecting an offering for the suffering Christians in Palestine. The Christians in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas were going through a severe famine and needed some help. He asked the Greek churches to take an offering that would go toward alleviating the Jewish Christians' suffering. In 2 Corinthians 8:14 Paul said, "Right now you have plenty and can help them. Then at some other time they can share with you when you need it. In this way, everyone's needs will be met."
Paul's understanding of generosity seemed to be that God had blessed the Greek Christians with extra resources so that they could be a blessing to those who were poor or were going through a difficult time. He also pointed out that there might be some point when those roles would be reversed. Realizing that God has blessed you so that you can bless others naturally leads to generosity. If one fails to understand this truth, it is likely that they will become stingy.
Paul also shares two other important principles about giving and generosity in Second Corinthians. First of all, he says, "Remember this - a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop." (2 Corinthians 9:6) Paul made it clear that someone could not really expect to receive anything back from God unless they were willing to give generously. The analogy that he uses is that of a farmer. When it is time for a farmer to plant, he is not going to be stingy with the seed. He is going to put a lot of seed in the ground to ensure that he reaps a large harvest. Paul implies that people should give in the same way. By generously putting out a lot of seeds (money), one has a much better chance of helping others and reaping God's blessings.
A second principle that Paul shares with the Corinthians about giving has to do with their attitude. "Don't give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully." (2 Corinthians 9:7) Perhaps this is one of the most important things that the Bible teaches about generosity. Attitude is everything. God is looking for people who give joyfully, happily, and really have a desire to bless others.
Throughout the Scriptures, generosity is discussed, described and illustrated. Those who are generous are able to bless those who are in need, as well as supporting the ongoing spread of the Gospel. Those who are generous also seem to unlock heaven's blessings in their own lives.
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