Of all people, shouldn’t followers of Jesus be known as generous? Sadly, that’s not always true. Opening the pages of the New Testament, you find descriptions of the earliest Christian communities as people overflowing with generosity. These early followers truly cared for one another. They bore one another’s burdens. They shared their material resources with one another. They lived in a radical way like family, because they were. And a watching world noticed. Many outside the community of faith stood in awe of God’s transforming power and decided to also follow Jesus Christ themselves. Christians are meant to be an extremely generous group of people.
Here are four marks of a generous life:
1) Open Heart
An encounter with Jesus changes things. Changed behavior starts with a transformation deep within, a radical heart change that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. The message of the gospel is about how God the Father generously provided a way for us to be saved from our sins through the giving of his Son, Jesus Christ. We see a summary of God’s generous gift in John 3:16, which says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” When a person opens their heart to receive God’s generosity in Jesus, they're empowered to respond to others with a generous heart. How frequently do you marvel at God’s generosity in the gospel?
2) Open Home
The first Christians shared life together. Their gatherings were characterized by “glad and generous hearts” (Acts 2:46). They practiced hospitality (1 Peter 4:9) that flowed out of transparent, authentic and generous relationships. What it looks like to be a “hospitable” person is sometimes misunderstood. Hospitality involves using whatever space or opportunities you have to warmly welcome people with the love of Jesus. Hospitality doesn’t mean exclusive gatherings with “insiders” only. To be a hospitable person includes a life posture that welcomes “outsiders,” a person who welcomes strangers. The way you live your life says to people, “There’s room for you here. This is a place where you can belong.” How does God want you to grow as a person who welcomes others with a Christlike love?
3) Open Hand
Living with an “open hand” involves being generous with your money and possessions. You find out very quickly where a person’s heart is by how they handle their material things. The gospel teaches us to hold your possessions loosely and give sacrificially. In true community people show they truly love one another! We again see this life pattern in the first Christians. Acts 2:44-45 summarizes community life: "And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” The book of Acts isn’t describing some ancient form of socialism. This community life is the result of transformed hearts. It’s a gospel miracle. What we do with our money and resources is a vital component of living as a disciple of Jesus. How do you want to live with a generous open hand this year?
4) Open to the Holy Spirit
When you strive to grow in generosity, you’ll quickly find that the opportunities outnumber your resources. There’s a constant stream of never-ending needs all around us. To decide where to give we need wisdom, direction and guidance. This is exactly where the Holy Spirit comes in. As we open ourselves up to God’s leading, his Spirit helps us to know what opportunities to say “yes” to and where to say “no.” Following Jesus involves living by the Spirit and walking by the Spirit each day (Galatians 5:25). How is God’s Spirit urging you to show generosity?
A gospel-transformed life is a generous life. As you look toward this coming year, what roadblocks are preventing you from living the generous life God has called you to?