Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sacrificial Generosity

A story was told of a missionary in Africa who received a knock on the door of his hut one afternoon. Answering, the missionary found a native boy holding a large fish in his hands. The boy said, "Reverend, you taught us what tithing is, so here. I've brought you my tithe." As the missionary gratefully took the fish, he questioned the boy. "If this is your tithe, where are the other nine fish?" At this, the boy beamed and said, "Oh, they're still back in the river. I'm going back to catch them now.

Couple of weeks ago I was reading Acts Chapter 2 and my attention was drawn to verse 45 that speaks about the generosity of the early church.  The whole thought beginning with verse 44 reads, "All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need" (2:44-45).

From chapters 4 and 5 of Acts we know that the generosity of the early Christians wasn't demanded by church leaders, nor was it required of all the people. Rather, it was a free response to the movement of the Holy Spirit in people's hearts.

Generosity, at its core, means giving to others to meet their needs or to help them achieve their goals. Generosity is never about the recipient, but rather it is all about the giver. Generosity is about the heart attitude of the giver when they give. People often associate generosity with giving money. However, generosity is not just about money, but is also about giving out of what we have to others - our time, our talents, our treasure and our testimony.

True generosity is giving away something we want and need to someone who doesn't have the ability to obtain it any other way. It is responding to the obvious need of another without calculating how much we stand to gain or lose. Life's richest rewards can only be found when we follow the Master's example and give without measure. "Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return." (Luke 6:38)

The Psalmist adds his own endorsement to generosity, “Good will come to him who is generous     and lends freely.” (Psalm 112:5) Proverbs is wisdom literature. It states universal truths which any wise person can experience for themselves. It is Proverbs that tells us, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25). It goes on to add, “A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9).

Often we think of generosity as an unfortunate obligation that leads to personal loss. But here, in the verses above, Proverbs speaks of giving as an opportunity for gain. Generosity is profitable. This fact may collide with worldly wisdom and seem paradoxical to those of us who believe that a tight fist rather than an open hand will lead to financial security. 

Can you imagine being part of a generous community like what is mentioned in Acts 2:45? It would be a foretaste of heaven. The result of sacrificial generosity is recorded two verses later, “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). It was the grace of God that saved them but it was the generosity of God’s people that opened     the door for the gospel.

May the Holy Spirit continue to reminds us to be generous