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The Greek word, οἰκονομία, means “to manage resources owned by another”, and so I’ve entitled this series “Oikonomics 101”. Truth is, all that we have belongs to God. During the next several weeks we are going to learn how to properly manage those God-given resources. Today we are going to talk about cultivating a lifestyle of generosity.
Luke 6:27-38 makes it clear that generosity is meant to define our lifestyle. This behavior is modeled by our Heavenly Father and, if we follow it, will clearly set us apart from how the world lives. We also see that generosity will reap many benefits. It’s not an accident that some people seem to be blessed in life and others are not. So, how do we develop a lifestyle of generosity—the kind of life Jesus is advocating in Luke 6? Give yourself totally to God. A lifestyle of generosity begins when I give myself totally to Jesus Christ. In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth, he made a very interesting statement concerning the churches in that region: They were very poor, yet they were known for their great generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1–5). Paul talks about both their affliction and their abundance of joy! Those things don’t seem to go together, do they? There is something different going on at this church! Paul adds that they gave “beyond their ability”. How can a person give more than they have? The answer is found in verse 5: “They first gave themselves to the Lord”.
A lifestyle of generosity, like that displayed by the churches of Macedonia, like the kind Jesus spoke of in Luke chapter 6, always begins with putting God first in your life, submitting your will to his will. Until that happens, you are going to struggle with being generous toward others. Once you have done that, everything else comes easy. Until you have done that, everything is a struggle, because you are still on the throne of your life. Sadly, many Christians never learn this principle. Do you know what the height of ingratitude is? The height of ingratitude is for God to give you something or to give me something, and then for us to put a fence around it and act as if it is ours, and be unwilling to share it with others. We become stingy and possessive rather than generous and openhanded. One of the first things we must learn is that everything you and I have is a gift from God. Even life itself is a gift. If we are going to cultivate a lifestyle of generosity, the first thing we’re going to have to do is give ourselves fully to God. Once we have done that, we will be generous toward others.
We also need to learn the benefits of biblical giving.
1. Giving makes me more like God. (John 3:16)
2. Giving draws me closer to God. We could rephrase Matthew 6:21 in this way: “Where your checkbook is, there your heart will be also.” If you want to determine what you really value in life, look at your checkbook. Does it reflect a commitment to eternal goals, or does it reflect a disproportionate concern with temporal issues? If our church is to have the impact that we all desire, we are going to have to make sacrifices to see it happen. As we give financially to promote eternal goals we draw closer to God, because our heart will follow our treasure. It is a biblical principle.
3. Giving is the antidote to materialism. (1 Timothy 6:17-18)
4. Giving strengthens my faith. (Luke 6:38) People occasionally ask me, “Doug, How much should I give?” My response is, “How much do you want to receive?” As we give it tends to come back to us, and it strengthens our faith—knowing that we can be generous and trust that God will provide for us. Unfortunately some of us seem to suffer from a disease called “cirrhosis of the giver!” We are stingy! If you close your hands around your God- given resources, God may take your stewardship away from you.
5. Giving is an investment for eternity. (1 Timothy 6:17–19) “You cannot take it with you—but you can send it on ahead!” Someone once said, “Do your givin’ while you’re livin’—then you’re knowin’ where it’s goin’!”
6. Giving blesses me in return. (Proverbs 22:9; Psalm 112:5-6).
7. Giving makes me happy. (Acts 20:35). In this world there are two kinds of people. There are givers and there are takers. Have you noticed that givers always seem to be the happiest? It’s true.
God has called us to a lifestyle of generosity. He wants us to live differently than the world lives. As followers of Jesus Christ we should be distinguished by our generosity, by our willingness to forgive, our willingness to share, our willingness to do good to those who are undeserving of that kind of generosity. God wants us to imitate Him in this regard—for if God is anything, he is generous!
He has designed the universe in a way that generosity begets generosity. In other words, it is to our benefit to be generous! That is where the irony comes in. The stingier we are, the more we cling to our stuff, the less we will tend to have. So let’s imitate our Father in heaven. Let’s learn to be generous in all that we do.
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
Begin applying these Biblical principles of generosity to your life this week, and begin experiencing the many benefits God promises.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)