The Generosity Paradox
“If you are not generous, you’ve never really experienced the Gospel. If you feel guilty about how little generosity you show, you don’t understand the Gospel.”
This is the statement I’ve been mulling over since working through our study on Sunday… I can’t remember where I heard it but I think it is profound. I’d say there is a 80% chance that I heard it from Tim Keller, but originality is the ability to to forget where you got something.
Basically the idea is this: It is impossible to really experience Jesus and not be radically generous in response. Why? 3 reasons, I’d say. First, a major component of what it means to be truly “converted” is that you realize His Kingdom is the most beautiful and lasting reality in the universe. You begin to find your significance in it, not in what you possess. So, you don’t have to spend lots of money to add beauty and significance in your life. You find that in being a part of His beautiful, eternal kingdom.
Second, you recognize Jesus, not money, is your security for the future. So, you don’t have to save extravagant amounts of money to feel secure.
Third, to be truly saved means you have some sense of how gracious God has been to you. The Bible repeatedly says that the sign that you have tasted God’s grace is you become gracious (Luke 19:8-10; 2 Cor 8:9; Eph 4:32, etc). As you recognize that there was nothing about you that earned God’s gracious look at you, you will want to share that with others who are in the same place you were.
Thus, if you have tasted of the Gospel, you will be gracious. Instinctively. You will give to Jesus’ kingdom because you find it more beautiful than possessing things; you will not need to save extravagant amounts of money, because you trust Jesus with the future; and, you will have compassion on those who are in the same condition you were in.
Just so you know I’m not being unrealistic… that doesn’t mean you will never enjoy what money can buy or that you don’t save anything. You will do both, in obedience to Jesus but in modest amounts (for example, by saving for tomorrow, I am living with the wisdom Proverbs commands me to live with!). But you will, as we love to say at the Summit Church, “live sufficiently and give extravagantly.”
If we are not generous, we have not really tasted the Gospel. That said, if we constantly feel guilty about how much we’re giving away, that means we don’t understand the Gospel, either. The New Testament consistently refuses to establish any “standard.” As I noted on Sunday, 3 x in the Gospel of Luke Jesus seems to endorse a different amount. In Luke 11, he endorses 10%; in Luke 19, 50%; in Luke 18, 100%. There is no standard. 10% seems to be the minimum, but there are times when Jesus will lead us to, or we will want to, give much more. I want to leave room, of course, for conviction of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes God will convict the Christian’s heart about caring too much about money, or for not showing compassion, and sometimes he will press upon your heart to give away inexplicably (like he did to the rich young ruler of Luke 18.) But these are not the same as feeling guilty or uncertain about what you give.
The point is that we give freely… because we want to give. You give because Jesus’ kingdom is your greatest beauty, and what else would you rather spend your money on? And you give because you just don’t need that exorbitant of an amount in the bank since you trust Jesus with tomorrow’s needs.
The Gospel does not preach a “law,” except to love our neighbors, and that is not the kind of thing that can be created by a law. That love in our heart will be formed only by learning God’s love for us and seeing His all-surpassing beauty and security above all earthly things. When we do, we can’t help but be generous. Thus, again, “If you are not generous, you’ve never really experienced the Gospel. If you feel guilty about how little generosity you show, you don’t understand the Gospel.”
Here are the words I gave you by Robert Murray McCheyenne, the old Scottish preacher:
“The more you understand who Jesus is and what He has done for you, the more generous you become… I fear there are many hearing me who now know they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally, not grudging at all, requires a new heart. An old heart would rather part with its lifeblood than its money.”
Some other great meditations on this…
- John Piper on why God is better than money, sex, power or popularity (a MUST read!)
- Randy Alcorn on why most Christians are boring because they never experience the joy of generosity. Like I told you on Sunday, stealing is a rush. Giving, when motivated by love, is an even greater rush!
- Also, here’s a great article in the New York Times about the timeliness of our friend David Platt’s book! I have expressed elsewhere some of my concerns with some aspects of Radical, but I am very encouraged that this prophetic message, which I believe is very much from God, is being made known in God’s church.