The Abounding Grace of Generosity
Over the years of my pastoral ministry church members have occasionally asked me, “How much should I give to the Lord’s work?” In most cases they were looking for an amount or a percentage. My answer often surprised them. I simply advised, “More!”
On the surface, some may have construed this as a tactic to increase our church budget. Instead, it was the answer that ultimately focused on the benefit of their soul and their growth in Christian maturity.
Exhortation, Example, Extraordinary Grace
Paul, in speaking of the incredible generosity of afflicted Christians in Macedonia (modern-day Greece), testified that in spite of their extreme poverty they overflowed in a “wealth of generosity.” He stated they actually gave “beyond their means” (2 Corinthians 8:1-3). Very often, we think we do not have the capacity to give generously. So how did these poor believers abound in generosity in such a profound way?
Paul makes it clear. They experienced the “grace of God” (8:1). Grace is God doing for us, in us, and through us what only He can do through the person and power of Jesus Christ. This reality was not just for the Macedonians but for every believer. In fact, Paul underscored the power of grace to challenge the Corinthian believers when he wrote, ”But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also” (2 Corinthians 8:7).
So, let me ask: Do you want to grow in faith? How about “godly speech, biblical knowledge, spiritual earnestness and love”? In these areas of Christian living, we would never resolve to willingly regress nor would we feel satisfied with stagnation. Every true believer wants more of God’s grace in order to grow! Paul says we should have the same attitude about our giving to God’s work. This is the power of grace. In fact, he closes the two chapters where he taught about generosity (2 Corinthians 8 & 9) by describing it as an experience of “the surpassing grace of God” (2 Corinthians 9:14).
Speaking very practically, this growth in the grace of generosity is not about the amount we give but the degree of sacrifice we demonstrate. No sacrifice – no grace. I’ve seen it happen so many times: as a family earns more money, not only do they fail to grow in the grace of giving, but they actually give a smaller percentage of their income. They somehow think that the large dollar figure is sufficient. However, this is in direct conflict with Paul’s command to GROW in the supernatural and sacrificial grace of giving.
Reasons to Grow in Grace
So let me encourage you with a handful of reasons to grow in the grace of generosity.
Christlikeness – We cannot claim to be like Jesus, as one of His disciples, if we are not abundantly generous. Paul wrote, “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 by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 2:8). Paul culminated his instruction about giving by pointing again to Christ when he wrote, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15). Christ’s model of inexpressible grace calls us to extraordinary giving.
Significance – Just as Jesus’ generous sacrifice brought the riches of our salvation, so our sacrificial generosity brings eternal blessings to lives and to the spiritual impact of gospel ministry. This also results in our eternal heavenly reward. The alternative is a superficial life measured by fleeting earthly markers. Jesus made it clear “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). He warned against laying up temporal treasures on earth but rather investing in heavenly realities. Then He warned, “ For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). A heart set on the material things of the world will eventually produce an eternally insignificant life.
Authenticity – Paul explained that generosity is the result of first giving ourselves to the Lord. Thus, generosity is the practical expression of a love and commitment to the Lord. Paul taught that it is also the evidence of a genuine love for others (2 Corinthians 8: 5 & 8). We cannot say we love the Lord and love others if sacrifice and generosity are not the pattern of our lives.
Joy – A life of Christlike generosity, eternal significance, and spiritual authenticity leads to true joy. Paul described the poor but generous Macedonians as experiencing an “abundance of joy” (8:2) and inferred that they were extraordinarily “cheerful” in their giving (9:7). Joy comes when we are free from the burden of unbridled acquisition and selfish hoarding. In Mark 4:19 Jesus warned that “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” This is a life void of joy.
God’s Glory – The purpose of all things is the glory of God. This means that His glory is the goal of every element of our lives. Our financial resources are not really ours but rather have been entrusted by Him to our stewardship for His purposes. “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36). Paul explained that sacrificial giving is designed to overflow “in many thanksgivings to God” (9:12) and that others will “glorify God” because of our generosity (9:13).
A Profound Promise
As we grow in the experience of God’s grace and exhibit increased generosity, our faith in God’s faithful abundance increases. Paul offered a great promise: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (9:8). My encouragement over the years for believers to give “more” has been rooted in these truths, but especially the assurance that “God is able to make ALL grace abound” to us so that we may “abound in every good work” – including, and especially, in our generosity.
Copyright © 2016 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.