Why do we give? The first hit when you Google “why should I be generous?” is this article which lays out four reasons:
1) Giving frees you from the “burden of materialism”
2) Giving helps you “to feel better about yourself”
3) Giving makes you less self-centered
4) Giving helps make people like you.
Do you find those reasons compelling? Two of them (1 &3) have echoes of biblical truth in them. But 2 & 4 are shockingly empty reasons.
Paul also has four reasons for giving: none of which overlap with this list. Here is Paul’s list:
1) Give because giving is a grace
2) Give because it proves your love of Jesus
3) Give because Jesus first gave
4) Give because you will be blessed.
Give Because Jesus Gave
Today we arrive at the third reason on that list: give because Jesus first gave. Paul says it this way in 2 Corinthians 8:9:
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that thought he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
Paul echoes and unpacks this statement to the Philippians, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” With each step of his descent, from taking on human form to his death on the cross, Jesus displays his perfect generosity in giving up his position, giving up his protection from death and sin, giving up himself.
Give Because the Father Gave
And Jesus does not stand alone as generous. It is not as though the Son is generous, but the Father is stingy. No, our Triune God is over-the-top generous.[i] Father, Son, and Spirit give. John 3:16 describes the generosity of God the Father, whose love overflows in giving: “For God so loved the world, he gave his only Son.” Who can imagine handing his or her child over to death for the sake of anyone, much less for the sake of an enemy?[ii] And we were his enemies!
And in their generosity, God the Father and God the Son give us the Holy Spirit.[iii]
Give Because the Spirit Gave
Consider the generosity of the Spirit! The Spirit, who indwells us, unites us with Christ, seals us for salvation, bears fruit in us and gives us spiritual gifts.[iv] Blessing upon blessing is given by the generous Spirit!
God withholds nothing from us. As we are conformed into his image, we grow in our Triune God-echoing generosity. When we give, we display the very character of Christ to the world. We, ambassadors of this strangely generous King, display his category-defying generosity in our own generosity.
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[i] Kelly Capic’s God So Loved, He Gave is a wonderful treatment of the theology of generosity on this foundation.
[ii] Romans 5:8-10
[iii] See Luke 11:13, John 15:26, Acts 5:32.
[iv] 1 Corinthians 12:7.