Register today for VBS 2022!

The Generosity Journey: Full Maturity

By Michael Roop

This is the fourth blog in a five-part series. To catch up on previous blogs, you can click here.

If the Old Testament sets a high bar for generosity, the standard in the New Testament is downright startling. Beyond simply marking off a first percentage of income for the ministry of the church, Jesus followers were pooling their resources (Acts 2:44-45), selling off possessions (Acts 4:34-35), and giving themselves into poverty (2 Cor. 2:1-5). Why so radical? Why not just find a workable firstfruits percentage, lock it in, and let it ride? I think the teachings of Jesus offer us at least three reasons.

First, and most importantly, we pursue sacrificial giving because true joy is found in giving. Paul quotes the words of Jesus when he says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). That word “blessed” famously shows up repeatedly in the first section of Jesus’ most famous sermon (Matt. 5:2-12). The word carries a connotation of peace, joy, happiness, and contentment. These are found in greater quantities through giving than through receiving (or saving, or hoarding).

Here’s what Jesus is saying: The more we receive and save, the more temporary and unsatisfying happiness we find. The more we give, the deeper and more lasting joy we find. So we give sacrificially because we’re trading in a series of letdowns to receive a life of lasting joy. After all, the kingdom of heaven is like a man who finds a treasure in a field and sells all his earthly possessions in order to buy it (Matt. 13:44-46).

Second, and building off the last, Jesus teaches us that everything in this world will pass away (Matt. 6:19). The most valuable materials in this world will eventually break down, lose value, or may even be taken from us. Conversely, the rewards we store up in heaven will never break down, lose value, or be taken from us (Matt. 6:20). We give sacrificially because the thing we sacrifice will be lost eventually, one way or another, but the thing we gain is eternally satisfying. Who would pass up such an exchange?

Finally, we give sacrificially because we are awake to the clear and present danger that material possessions present to our ultimate joy and satisfaction in Christ. Jesus teaches these sobering words: “You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). You will have to choose which you will treasure. And if you haven’t chosen consciously, you’ve chosen unconsciously, and it probably wasn’t God. Therein lies the power of money to steal our hearts.

In his famous book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis addresses giving with great clarity:

“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”

Of course, such a life reflects the image of a God who held nothing back from us. At the heart of the gospel is the generosity of God extended to us: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Christian generosity comes to full maturity when it is costly and sacrificial, thus reflecting the gospel itself.

So next week, we’ll wrap up our series with some guardrails to keep us on the path toward mature generosity, toward the most joy-filled life.

Tagged with