By Steve Gregg
This Sunday is “Generosity Sunday” at Creekside. Going into the holiday season we want to take this Sunday to remember that generosity is a characteristic that should be evident in a Christian. I hope that if you’ve been around Creekside for any amount of time you have heard the Good News that God has been overwhelmingly gracious and generous to us through Jesus: his drawing close to us through the incarnation, his substitutionary death which paid the penalty for all of our rebellion, the resurrection which has given us a new life, and the presence of the Holy Spirit indwelling and empowering us, along with the promise that as His adopted sons and daughters we will one day dwell with Him in a new heavens and a new earth. This sweeping generosity of God is the basis for our generosity. As a result, there are three responses to this grace that in turn provide the soils from which a generous spirit grows.
The first soil is humility. Coming to realize that God is the source of the good gifts we enjoy, not because of our merit but because of his love, should both greatly encourage and deeply humble us. This realization of how much has been done on our behalf should foster in us a spirit of generosity that flows out to others. Pride and self sufficiency constricts us and provides us with endless excuses to be stingy and miserly. Humility frees us up to love and to give to others joyfully.
Another soil in which generosity grows is gratitude. Living in a broken world gives us no end of things to grouse about, to worry over or to be disappointed in. The fallen world gives us an unending list of reasons for unthankfulness. It seems the best we can do is to be, as my friend Jay Lynch says, “situationally” thankful. Grateful for a specific thing, thankful for a one time victory before settling back into a disposition of ingratitude. It is clear though that Christians are to be people marked by a disposition of gratitude and thankfulness. And from the thankfulness flows a sport of generosity towards others. Jay said it well in a recent email:
I believe cultivating a heart of gratitude is the antecedent to heartfelt acts of generosity, what Paul calls a “cheerful giver”. Lots to talk about in this area but I think it is worth reminding us that the Thanksgiving holiday, if rightly practiced, will lead to open arms and open hands. But it doesn’t stop there, because receipt of generosity itself generates gratitude. So in God’s economy of virtue, we have a constant flow or dance of gratitude and generosity that create fertile soil for the fruit of the Spirit. Cicero said that gratitude was the mother of all virtue and there is truth to this.
A third soil is self-sacrifice. Our natural tendency is to focus on ourselves and give priority to meeting our needs. It would seem logical that this would be the best way for us to be most fulfilled, watching out for number one. But Jesus said we gain our life by losing it, we keep our life by laying it down. David Brooks, the NY Times columnist, writes in this recent book, The Second Mountain, that it was seeing this reality play out in the lives of people he met that eventually led him to faith in Christ. He kept coming across people who were laying down their lives for others, individuals and communities, and these people seemed the most joyful, fulfilled and deeply-alive people he could imagine. As we focus on and rest in all that Christ has done for us, we are invited to join Him in this seeming paradox, of gaining by giving.
Speaking of generosity, I want to take this opportunity to thank the Creekside family for their love and generosity during the past couple of weeks after the the passing of Kim’s mother, Rosemary and my mother’s hospitalization in Indiana. The church family has been wonderful in reaching out, providing meals and just expressing sympathy and love. We are grateful to be a recipients of the type of generosity I’ve been writing about. We have so very much to be grateful for. I hope the end result is we are a people marked more and more by a generous spirit in response to such grace.