A Matter of the Heart
In Mark 8, Jesus tells His disciples about His impending suffering, death, and resurrection. Peter, unable to even begin to comprehend something so terrible, takes Jesus aside, seeking to correct His “misunderstanding” of future events. But to Peter’s surprise, Jesus tells Peter he’s taking his cues from Satan and “seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
At that point, Jesus calls the crowd to join Him and His disciples and begins to explain to them what following Him should look like. It was in this context Jesus asked a couple very pointed and penetrating questions in verse 36: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
This may seem an odd way to open a blog on the benefits of being generous, but the reality is the greatest enemy of generosity is our incessant longing for the things of this world. And the irony is generosity at its core isn’t even a matter of finances or possessions. It’s a matter of the heart.
Generosity doesn’t originate in what we do, (i.e., how much of ourselves/our “stuff” we give away) but from who we are (i.e., our character, illustrated by how much of ourselves/”what’s ours” we seek to keep).
As always, Jesus is painting a picture that burns an indelible image on our heart and mind. When He speaks of gaining “the whole world,” He’s essentially saying, “and all that entails–every advantage socially, politically, economically, educationally, relationally–every conceivable advantage this world could possibly offer without reservation!”
But the nagging question still remains: “Is all the world has to offer worth as much as my soul?” The clear implication is, “No way!” But why not?
A Perspective Shift
Most human beings, including many believers, are choosing every day to trade their soul for the trinkets of this world, resulting in a stingy heart and a troubled, empty soul. We’re always looking for more. But more of what? Of what this world offers or more of Jesus?
In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a story about a man who finds a treasure in a field. In his excitement, he sells everything he owned to get enough to buy that field.
What was the treasure? Jesus! What’s the implication? Nothing, no amount of this world’s goods and services can compare with the joy of knowing, loving, serving, sacrificing everything we own and everything we are for His honor and fame.
Again, you may be asking, “What does this have to do with the benefits of being generous?” It doesn’t, unless and until we understand that nothing we can experience with our five physical senses, nothing we can see, feel, taste, touch, or hear, is eternal. It simply won’t last.
So, what? If it doesn’t last, it has little or no eternal value, except to the extent it’s used for eternal purposes. What does that mean?
It means, as His followers, when our hearts are tuned to the heartbeat of God, we want what He wants. We long for everyone we love to share the joy of our much-anticipated eternal home in heaven. It means nothing on this earth has value to us unless it contributes to the mission of taking as many people to heaven with us as possible.
So, we learn to use the “currency” of heaven. What’s that? Generosity, prompted and motivated by our love for and devotion to our Savior.
A Look at Grace, Gratitude, and Generosity
There are three “G” words that are inextricably interwoven, that when understood lead to the virtually unlimited benefits of living a life devoted to giving of ourselves and of our resources. Those words are grace, gratitude, and generosity.
Grace is the free, undeserved, unearned favor of God. God’s love is a grace-gift. There’s nothing we can do to make God love us more. And there’s nothing we can do to make God love us less.
Then, why do we serve, give, submit to His authority, and obey His commandments? Shouldn’t we be trying to earn His love? Nope. No can do! He loves us, period. Then why? Gratitude!
Our lives, as followers of the Lord Jesus, should be living testaments of what gratitude looks like.
- The sum total of all this world has to offer doesn’t compare to the value of my soul.
- Jesus willingly laid down His life in my place to pay the penalty for my sin.
- Jesus’ sacrifice opens the door to the deliverance of my soul from Satan’s captivity.
- My eternal freedom allows me to begin my journey to becoming all God created me to become in Him—a life of meaning, fulfillment, and purpose.
- In light of the above, how can I possibly live my life without being grateful to God?
So, what might living a life of grace-filled gratitude look like? Generosity!
Everything I have has been given to me as a grace-gift. “But wait a minute,” you may be thinking, “Didn’t I sacrifice and invest years of my life for my education, which ultimately led to the career to which I now give many hours of my day, which supplies the income I now enjoy, which affords me the nice house, nice ride, beautiful vacations, and all the other wonderful benefits of my hard work?”
Good point. But who gave you the mental and physical abilities that enabled you to get that education? That led to the career? That affords you all the other things of which you speak?
And do I dare believe for a millionth of a second, out of the billions of people on this planet, I just happened to meet the one person of my dreams? That I just happen to have the children for whom I’d give everything, including my life in a heartbeat? Do I live in the neighborhood I live in by accident? Did I come to Chase Oaks Church just on a whim? Am I alive in this moment by any effort of my own?
Do I not yet understand that I exist as a grace-gift from God and that everything I have or am or ever will be, is a gift from God, apart from whom, according to Jesus, I am nothing and can do nothing?
I love the expression I’ve heard numbers of times since becoming a Chase Oaker: “We don’t give because we have to. We give because we get to!”
That speaks to the root of generosity. How can I not give generously of my time, my energy and efforts, my finances, and my talents and abilities to forward God’s eternal purposes?
If everything I have is a gift from God, it’s not mine to do with as I please anyway. I’m not an owner. I’m a steward, a manager of the resources, including my relationships, my money, my mind, my abilities, everything to the honor, glory, and fame of Jesus.
A Blessing for Others and Us
Generosity is simply allowing our lives to become a channel of blessing to others through the manifestation of the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
By generously exhibiting these characteristics of Christ’s love for us in our love for others, the greatest benefit to us is that we get to experience the blessing of God’s closeness.
We are introduced to the life God has desired for us since the Garden of Eden. It’s the blessed (“makarios”) life about which Jesus spoke in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5.
As Pastor Jeff has been sharing over the last weeks, it’s a life of fulfillment of which Jesus spoke in John 10:10, a life of purpose and meaning; a life of satisfaction and peace; a life designed and equipped by the fullness of God’s presence living in and through us each second our hearts beat and far beyond. It’s the treasure we seek as we pursue the trinkets of this world but never find except in surrender to the One who gave His life for us.
Luke records in Acts 20:35 the words of Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, as he quoted the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
The word “blessed” in this verse is the same word Jesus used in His sermon in Matthew 5. It can be translated many ways, but in essence, it refers to the life we’re afforded in following Christ that can be offered to us in no other way: a life of complete surrender to the will of God that results in unimaginable joy, peace, freedom, and yes, happiness.
What It Means to Be Generous
Generosity includes but certainly isn’t limited to the giving of money. Though I never earned very much, I can’t use that as an excuse for not living a generous life. My treasure isn’t the measure of wealth used by this world. My treasure is Jesus.
And for the rest of my life, I’m His, to be used by Him in any way He chooses. I don’t want to burn out in my service to my Savior. I want to wear out. When my eyes close for the last time, I want to have given everything I could possibly give to His honor and to the furtherance of His eternal Kingdom.
The greatest benefit of generosity to me is to be able to say with the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:21: “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.”
If you would like to give your time, money, resources, or abilities to make a difference in the lives of children around our world, consider supporting our short-term missions to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, where we work together to improve the lives of the children at Casa Hogar Elim.