The Generosity Test
Rob is a long-term Fellowship family member dating back to his childhood. He and his wife Jenny live in south Fort Wayne where they are raising 4 teenage boys as disciples of Jesus. They are intentional about learning to live generously like Jesus so their kids can imitate their example.
Thanks to Rob, and to you, for taking this journey toward greater Jesus-like generosity.
As we see in 2 Corinthians chapter 8, Paul starts to tell the church of Corinth that the church over in Macedonia has received the gift of God’s grace. He states that amid a tough season (pandemic anyone?) they had a lot of joy choosing to give “rich generosity” to others. There was so much generosity, they gave beyond their means. In fact, Paul says they “urgently pleaded” for the “privilege of sharing in this service (of generosity) to the Lords’ people”.
So, what is going on here exactly?
What is this “grace” the Macedonian Church received?
What does this grace have to do with money and generosity anyway?
Going further, 2 Cor 8:9 starts to shed some light on the subject;
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."
Let’s unpack this powerful single verse. It makes sense that God’s son, Jesus, was rich while in Heaven. He would have had access to all kinds of resources, all kinds of capital: spiritual, relational, physical, intellectual, financial (See Ben Sternke’s book Oikonomics for further study on the 5 Capitals).
However, once God chose to have his son leave Heaven and come to Earth as a baby, he gave up many of these resources of wealth, just as Pastor Joe taught last from Philippians 2. In doing so, Christ Jesus became poor. He generously gave up all those resources for you and me. If we choose (like the Macedonians) to receive the gift of Jesus, that gift will bring us up out of our poverty of sin.
Now this is the model of “grace” that the church of Macedonia has received and adopted. They truly got it. They understood that to become more like God they need to act like Jesus. If God’s goal was to stay rich; we’d not be free of the bondage of sin (our poverty) because he wouldn’t have given up his son Jesus to die for our sins.
Brothers and sisters, we are called to mimic Jesus’ generous acts of self-giving actions with everything we have been given by His grace—including (especially?!) our money. We can follow Jesus in this same way by keeping loose hands on the money we’ve been given; being ready to redeploy it to others that God allows to cross our path.
It really sounds like this giving thing is really all about the condition of our heart and our desire to truly follow Jesus in the way he has already done for all of us. If you do not yet have established practices to become more generous like Jesus, the biblical place to start is giving 10% for your earnings away to your local church (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). This 10% number is a great target to shoot for but not the finish line.
What if God said he was only giving 10% of Jesus to us? We’d not have the same gifts as we do today if that were the case.
Our church has several nonprofit leaders that call FMC their home but more importantly they are doing amazing work for the Kingdom. A few of my local favorites to give to include: RemedyLIVE, Blue Jacket, Youth For Christ, and NeighborLink Fort Wayne. Nationally and globally, amazing Gospel work is happening through organizations relying on our generosity.
What if, like the Macedonians, we had “overflowing joy” to give away God’s resources, giving as much as we are able?
I know stories of encouragement of people giving to others in unique ways. Real life examples include: families giving away their minivan (instead of trading it in upon purchasing the next family vehicle), leaving a $50 tip for a server or hair stylists, bringing meals to those who are sick or mourning, passing along clothes to others once the kids out grow them, the list goes on and on.
Don’t worry about how much you are giving versus the next person. God knows your heart and your means. As Paul says, our generous giving “…is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what (one) does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12).
Finally, let me encourage those of us with limited means or who struggle to make ends meet. Some in our body are unbanked, meaning they don’t yet have a bank account. Others have very limited or fixed incomes due to unemployment, under-employment, or disability where the incoming dollars don’t always match outgoing necessities like rent, utilities, food, and transport. If you find yourself in this space, take special note of the Macedonia believers in 2 Corinthians 8:1-3 where Paul tells us that these believers were suffering trials and extreme poverty.
“…we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own.”
Paul is clear: generosity is not just for people with disposable income. Everyone is capable of generosity no matter their income. In fact, there is greater honor for those who give out their poverty than from their wealth (Mark 12:41-44). Those who are the poorest among us can inspire the greatest generosity, just like the Macedonian believers did for Paul and the Corinthian believers.
We all have barriers we must hurdle to become more generous. As someone with a comfortable income who works in the wealth management industry, my challenge to growing my generosity are all the additional choices of how to spend those resources. At first blush, one may not consider the fact that once you have additional resources you now have an additional burden on how to handle that resource. It is extremely counter cultural to not consume on lifestyle or save (hoard) for the future all of which you make. It takes a great deal of discipline to pause in the discomfort of this burden and wrestle with the choices (temptations really) that are before you.
Thanks Rob for sharing! This is such a tough area for me and I continue to wrestle with my cynicism and limited thinking around how and how much to give. You are right that it is ultimately a question of the heart and only God can know that. Iâd love to talk more sometime and really appreciate you sharing your thoughts.
@Paul, not that I have all the answers but Iâd be happy to dialogue around this anytime! Tough area for many and I am right there with you trying to process through it daily!