Year-End GenerosityDecember 2011
by Tim Keller
You might think you know what this article is about, but it’s not what you think. Near the end of the year everyone brings up financial giving, but that’s not what I want to talk about, primarily.
The Bible says that God has poured out his mercy and Holy Spirit generously through Jesus Christ so we can be justified by grace (Titus 3:6). Why is mercy and forgiveness described in terms of ‘generosity’? Because God is under no obligation to give us any good gift. In fact, our sin has forfeited any favor or blessing we might have had. Yet, instead of giving us the punishment we deserve, he took that himself and gave us the riches of mercy and grace. He forgave, he was generous with us sinners.
In the book of James there is another way that God is said to be generous. The author urges his readers to become spiritually mature and wise, and if they lack this, they should ask God, “Who gives generously to all without finding fault.” (James 1:5) Here God is generous not in forgiveness but in ministry. He builds people up and shares his wisdom with others, and he is not stingy with his service, only giving to ‘deserving’ people. No, he ministers to others “without finding fault.”
Generosity, then, is basically a matter of the spirit. Isaiah 32:8 says, “The generous make generous plans, and by generous deeds they stand.” The Hebrew word here can be translated as ‘noble,’ ‘generous,’ and ‘large-hearted.’ Noble-hearted people are like God. They are eager to look for ways to share with, bless, and lift up others. Of course, as Paul said to Titus, the ultimate generosity was the cross. God so loved the world that he gave his most precious possession to die. (John 3:16)
At the end of the year I’m struck by our need for noble-hearted, all-round generosity. I have visited the three Catalyst sites this fall and I couldn’t be more impressed and encouraged by the generosity of spirit I see there. Participants are not only giving of their precious time and energy to become more well-trained, but they are taking steps toward making Redeemer more truly a church in which every member is a minister. It is easy, especially in such a large church, to come to events simply to takereceive ministry. But Catalyst participants are training to be ministry givers. That is radical generosity indeed.
There is another kind of generosity that will be sorely needed in our community over the next few years. We are making an exciting transition, but transition means change and there are always those who will experience any change as a loss. This means that we will have many opportunities to be grumpy with each other, to begin to murmur and complain against each other, to offend and be offended. But the answer to this is generosity of spirit. The gospel should create a community in which people repent readily, humbly, and joyfully, and full forgiveness and embrace is granted just as eagerly. How we need the generous spirit of Jesus himself, who forgave those crucifying him before they repented, even before they knew what they were doing!
So we need generosity on all fronts. Of course, this includes sacrificial giving, stewardship of your finances. It is the end of the year and as usual Redeemer is dependent on receiving a very large percentage of our annual budget in the final month of the year. Paul was talking about money when he wrote: “Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Corinthians 9:6)
Nevertheless, as you see, financial giving is not the only kind of generosity we need poured out at Redeemer. It may not even be the most strategic kind, because people who are experiencing the other kinds of generosity within a church are so transformed by them that sacrificial giving of money seems quite natural.
Let’s “thank God for his inexpressible gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15), the grace of God in Jesus, and then respond likewise.
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