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In the Image of a Generous God

By Michael Roop

This is part two in a four-part series on generosity. To catch up on the rest of the series, click here.

Humanity is literally hell-bent in its quest for autonomy. From the beginning, the lie has been told, believed, and acted on, that the happiest life is found not in an intimate and dependent relationship with God but in our own power, our own independence, our own ingenuity. This is a major reason why a life of generosity is so counterintuitive to us. Generosity requires dependence. If we organize our lives around a posture of generosity, we are giving up autonomy and making ourselves dependent on the provision of Another.

For this reason, it is essential to see that God’s commands are always in line with our nature and for our good. We are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), and the story of Scripture centers on the work of a generous God. The God who needs nothing, who is infinitely independent and self-sufficient, nonetheless bursts onto the scene as the Creator. And His creation is not simply utilitarian, but rich, complex, beautiful, dynamic, and “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

God is generous to a sinful humanity, providing a covering for their bodies (Genesis 3:21) and promising to provide a rescuer (Genesis 3:15). God is generous in the gospel, making us rich by impoverishing Himself (2 Corinthians 8:9). God is generous to send the rain and sun on the righteous and sinful alike (Matthew 5:45). God is generous to provide every good gift (James 1:17). God is generous to provide an eternal home for His people (John 14:2; Revelation 21:3).

The story of the Bible centers on the outpouring of a generous God. And we are created in His image. This means that, to inhabit a posture of stingy self-centeredness is to work contrary to our nature. To elevate our own needs and our own lifestyle goals over the needs of others will necessarily lead to a less happy life because we cannot find the fullness of joy outside of our created design.

But a deeper concern is raised by believing that the happiest life is found in generosity. If Jesus is inviting us to recalibrate our hearts and inhabit a posture of generosity - that is to say, if my priority is to bless and meet the needs of others - who is going to take care of me? How can I know that my needs are going to be met? If I’m going to jump off the secure ledge of receiving and keeping material resources into the unsure waters of generosity, who is going to catch me?

Maybe that’s why brilliant, insightful Jesus follows up His teaching on generosity (Matthew 6:19-24) with an extended teaching on anxiety (Matthew 6:25-34). Storing up heavenly treasures in place of earthly ones is scary for the reasons already outlined. Jesus’ response is one of deep comfort. “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’...your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” In other words, the natural posture of generosity is actually safer than the unnatural posture of stinginess because it forces us to rely on God, and not ourselves, to meet our needs. And God is a perfect Father who delights in providing all that we need (Matthew 7:7-11).

Whole-life generosity is not just the pathway to a happier, more meaningful life. It is right in line with our created design as image-bearers of a generous God.

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