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The Happier Life

By Michael Roop

Bible verses have a funny way of becoming decorations. Whether it’s a coffee mug, a cross-stitched pillow or wall hanging, or something trendy from Etsy, Christians love them some Bible verse art. At this time of year, all the verses on giving thanks are finding their fall-themed backgrounds on canvas or wood. While I’m all for having God’s Word artfully and beautifully displayed through our homes (you’ll find a line of poetry from Lamentations in our family room), there’s one in particular that, for all its notoriety, I wonder if we truly believe. Ok, I wonder if I truly believe.

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35

“Blessed” is a Bible word. In fact, Jesus uses it repeatedly in the introduction to His most famous sermon. For all that Christianese that obscures it, the idea is a simple one: happy. Jesus is making a simple yet audacious claim, “A happier life is found in giving.”

A nice sentiment, right? But here’s the deep question that I want to avoid asking: How would my life be different if I really believed this verse? I mean really believed it? What would my bank statement, my calendar, my home look like if I really believed a happier, more joyful, more meaningful life could be found in generosity? What would our churches look like if they were filled with people who took Jesus at His Word? This question is all the more pressing when we look at the state of giving among the American church today.

In a 2017 study, Barna found that “practicing Christians report giving...somewhere between 3 and 4 percent of their disposable (after tax) income” This was a perplexing statistic, given the fact that we live in the most materially prosperous nation in the history of the world. So to dig a little deeper, they gave ten financial goals and asked the participants to rank them in order of importance. The result? The option “to serve God with my money” ranked number six, four spots behind “to support the lifestyle I want,” which came in at number two. Regardless what’s going on in the world around us, the numbers within the church don’t tell a compelling story.

So in this four-week blog series, I want Scripture to paint a picture of a life lived in line with Acts 20:35. As I explore this topic, I’m making a few assumptions. First, I’m assuming that generosity is about more than just money; it’s a lifestyle, a posture we are called to inhabit. However, I’m also assuming that generosity is not less than the stewardship of our money, or that generosity in other areas excuses financial stinginess.

And finally, I’m assuming that the call to whole-life generosity is, like everything in the Christian life, more of an invitation than a demand. It’s an invitation to a happier, more joyful, more meaningful life. It’s an invitation to invest in our eternal future, and to calibrate our hearts toward the kingdom (Matthew 6:19-22). It’s an invitation to trust God’s design over our own autonomy. It’s an invitation to lay down our lives for the sake of Jesus, and in so doing, to find what is truly life.

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