Third in a series (of 5).
In part one of this series we looked at some of the attributes of God and discussed how generously he exhibits those characteristics with us. In part two we discovered that we are God’s treasure demonstrated by the depth of his love for us. Look with me now at some of the attributes of a Christ-follower. There are actually some lists that help here:
Gal 5.22,23 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no blaw against these things!
Philippians 4.4-9 Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing.
John 13.35 – Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples
John 14. 15 If you love me, obey my commandments
Romans 12.1-21 – transformational living (open to change), using gifts for others
A common thread in all of these passages is that we are to liberally use the gifts that God has given us for others. Even our joy is for others to see and our love for one another is meant to prove to the world the reality of Jesus in our lives. In other words we are called on to be a generous people and to live lives of generosity. In much the same way that God has been generous toward us we are called on to be generous toward him and toward others. There is no place in the Bible where we are instructed to withhold love, encouragement, kindness, gentleness, or possessions. In fact, a simple study of God’s Word quickly reveals how we are to be stewards of what he gives to us by using it for the kingdom. Somewhere we have gotten off track by using the word steward to justify hoarding and stinginess. But this is not God’s way – thankfully! He has been exceedingly generous with every one of us. Not withholding his love or provision – ever! The parable of the three servants in Matthew 25 teaches us that Jesus expects us to use what he gives us for the kingdom. It is not to be buried in the ground or held on to for a rainy day. I don’t think it’s a mistake that the parable of the sheep and goats immediately follows. I believe that Jesus is saying to his follows – “Be generous with what I have given to you. There are people all around you who have physical and spiritual needs. I have given you the resources to meet those needs.”
And while we almost automatically apply generosity to our finances I don’t think that it ends there. Remember those fruit of the Spirit? Love, joy peace, patience, etc. How about being generous with those, too? Are you unconditionally liberal with your love toward others? Do you jump at expressing joy over what God has done for you and others? Do you constantly pursue peace? Do you repeatedly portray patience with your family or co-worker? Do your neighbors think of you as one who keeps on being kind? Are you great at showing goodness to others? Do you focus on being faithful in keeping your word and your vows? Do you generously give gentleness – even to those other drivers? Do you strive to develop self-control? Do you project praise of God and what he is doing in your life and in the life of those around you? Do you faithfully fix your thoughts on those things that are pure, honorable, true, and admirable? Are you continuously embracing change in your life?
Generosity, then, extends beyond our finances to every area of our lives. So let me ask: Are you a generous person? Does your generosity reflect God’s generosity toward you?