Monday, February 16, 2015

The Purpose of Generosity

From Abel to Malachi in the Old Testament and from Matthew to Revelation in the New Testament Scripture talks about generosity.

When the pastor preaches about giving or the church offers a class like Financial Peace University, the assumption is often that God is after your hard-earned cash. But scripture teaches the exact opposite of this. In reality, God owns it all and it is a bit presumptuous to assume that he needs our money at all. 

If the purpose of generosity isn't because God needs our money. Why does God ask us to be generous?

The reason we are compelled to be generous is because giving is good for the believer. God knows that giving makes us a better person, We are made in his image and part of being God's image bearers is to be generous.

The discipline of giving over a lifetime can transform us and our outlook on life. There was a survey given recently where the survey question asked, "What was the most memorable act of giving in your life." The 60-70 year old respondents typically spoke about giving steadily to their church or a missionary or some other cause that they believed in. The 40-50 year olds talked about a one-time gift they had given to someone. The 20-30 year olds spoke about something that had been given to them. I share these survey results to point out that steady giving over a lifetime changes our perspective in quite startling ways.

A researcher looked at the correlation between generosity and divorce and found that the most generous people had very low divorce rates. The man and woman who were willing to give to the poor, or their church, or a mission was also more successful in their marriage? This attitude towards giving spilled over into their relationships and especially in their marriage. This same researcher found that generous people also made better parents, employees, employers, neighbors, etc.

From a spiritual standpoint, the Holy Spirit is the prompter or instigator of our generosity. In the Old Testament, I really like the passage where the nation of Israel had been commanded to build the temple. Exodus 35:21 "And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord's contribution to be used for the tent of meeting, and for its service, and for the holy garments." Read this verse carefully, it says, "they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him." This is talking about the Holy Spirit working in the congregation of believers. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of generosity. This isn't some weird emotional experience, but His conviction in the hearts of believers to give!

The New Testament confirms that the Holy Spirit, is a generous Spirit.

Titus 3:5-6  "For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.

From these verses, we see the role that the Holy Spirit plays in salvation and he does the same with our generosity.  Through the Holy Spirit, we become generous in love, sympathy, concern, time, money, and service.

As with all spiritual disciplines, the Church needs to do its part in teaching Biblical financial principles. But it is the work of the Spirit, to bring our hearts to generosity for the work of the Kingdom, just like it is his responsibility to bring us to Salvation in Christ.

The discipleship of generosity is a 'with me" experience of walking along side our fellow believers and teaching what the Bible says about our money and how to be generous with each area of our lives. I love that ministry. It is such a natural discipleship process full of wisdom, common Biblical sense, and spiritual transformation, with the end result being peaceful and happy believers. We can teach the principles of giving and the process of getting our financial house in order so that we can give generously.  We don't have to twist anyone's arm or put pressure on them to give. We have seen people start on the path to financial freedom, just taking the first few baby steps, start to give with joy for the first time in their adult lives. They love to give, because we are made in His image, and because we respond to the Holy Spirit. As we give our perspective changes, We become more like Christ. 

So the next time you have an opportunity to be generous remember that the disciple of Christ needs to give. We give, not because God needs our money, but because it makes us more like Him.

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