To Be Generous Like Jesus
Submitted by Jennifer Power
There is a lot that goes in to financial health, and I am no financial expert. There are great resources on getting financially healthy that a family can utilize for a practical how-to guide, but one aspect of financial health of which I personally am passionate is generosity – not just generosity, but generosity which characterizes us as the body of Christ, unique from the rest of the world; a generosity that makes people stop and wonder what in the world would drive us to radically care for one another in such an unusual way.
I believe we can learn this type of generosity from scripture, and whenever I want to learn something from the Bible, I tend to gravitate first to Jesus.
To me, Jesus is generosity personified.
Sometimes, when we think about generosity, we only think about giving money or possessions. This is certainly an important component, but generous people – especially those who are generous in a way that builds up the body of Christ – are not characterized by monetary donations alone.
The Bible does not tell us much about Jesus giving away money. We know He worked in a trade with His father (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3) and that His family was not of the upper class (Matthew 8:20 and 13:55). We know He instructed His followers to pay taxes (Matthew 22:17-21) and taught a radical generosity (Luke 10:30-37, 12:33, 21:1-4, Matthew 6:1-4). However, we do not see in the Gospel times where Jesus gave away ten percent to the church, saved ten percent of His income (of course, knowing He was going to die at 33 may have contributed), or where He spent 80 percent of His income on His own needs and desires. It may very well be good advice (even scriptural advice, particularly from the Old Testament) to save and give in this manner, but we do not learn these principles from Jesus.
Jesus financial directions steer more towards giving everything.
The Generosity of Jesus
During Jesus’ three years of earthly ministry, He seems to rely on the provision of God through others as He travels and ministers. Without any earthly possessions to speak of, we do not see Him giving away His things. We see Him tell others to give away their things (Luke 12:32-24, Matthew 19:16-30) praising the widow who gave away everything (Luke 21:1-4), providing food for massive crowds through supernatural means (Matthew 14:13-21, Matthew 15:32-39) and providing wine for a poorer family who had run out at a wedding (running out of wine before the end of the celebration would have brought them much shame) (John 2:1-11).
So, if not His money and personal possessions, what do we see Jesus give which marks Him as the embodiment of generosity?
For starters, He gave up His glory to humble Himself as a human being. In heaven, the angels and heavenly creatures unceasingly proclaim God’s praise (Revelation 4:6-11 and 5:11-12, Isaiah 6:1-4). On earth, Jesus experienced rejection, hunger, pain, fatigue, loneliness, sorrow, and a whole range of humanities emotions and physical experiences.
Who gives up a throne for dirty feet?
He gave up His freedom. He submitted Himself as a servant of the Father, to do only the Father’s will and not His own (John 8:29, Philippians 2:1-11). He had no freedom to do only what sounded appealing to Him – His obedience to the will of the Father was whole and absolute. He gave up His freedom for us.
He gave up His time. Not only was His time on earth cut short (of an ordinary lifespan) through a brutal death, but throughout His life we see Him turn from what He desired (and at times intended) to do toward the pressing needs of others. There were times He tried to get away (Luke 5:15-16), but compassion for the wounded and hurting drove Him to attend to their needs (Luke 9:10-11, Matthew 12: 15, 14:13-14). I cannot find a time in scripture where Jesus refuses to heal or to respond with compassion to the pain presented before Him. His need for communion with God would drive Him to pray throughout the night so He could be alone with the Father when He could not escape the crowds during the day (Luke 6:12).
He gave of Himself emotionally. It is exhausting caring for the needs of broken people. Doing so leaves a person emotionally drained. To heal ten lepers and have but one come back and thank Him, must have been emotionally challenging for Jesus (Luke 17:11-19). To see the pain and doubt in the eyes of Mary and Martha when they grieve the death of their brother Lazarus moves Jesus to tears of sorrow for the state of humanity (John 11:33-36).
He gave up His vocation. What kind of career might the Son of God be qualified to hold? While Jesus was on earth the masses of people believed Him qualified to be a powerful ruler, leader, and over-thrower of the Roman government and tried to force Him into such a position (John 6:15). Some believe the betrayal of Judas was an attempt to force Jesus into a position of power. If ever a person could be anything he wanted to be, Jesus could have been anything He wanted to be.
A poor, servant leader who died a gruesome death.
He gave up His reputation. He touched lepers, spoke with a Samaritan woman and other “untouchables,” ate with sinners, welcomed and blessed children, and infuriated the religious leaders.
He gave up His relationships, in the traditional sense. His family doubted Him (John 7:5). The throngs of followers abandoned and betrayed Him (John 6:66). His faithful friends fell away in fear (Mark 14:50). One of His twelve followers turned Him over to the authorities to be put to death (Luke 22:47-48). He left His heartbroken mother to watch Him suffer and die (John 19:26). He denied Himself the joy of a spouse with which to spend His earthly life as well as the joy of biological children.
He did not have a normal social life. He was rejected, out-casted, made into a celebrity and quickly abandoned. In the end, even the Father abandoned Him on the cross – utterly alone (Mark 15:34).
We are not able to measure the generosity of Jesus by the percentage of His income given to others; instead, we are left to measure His life and to measure our lives by His. It would be an error for us to try to measure generosity only in terms of money given. If we are to learn generosity from Jesus, and if we are to teach that generosity to our children, it will require an entire paradigm shift.
Did Jesus live within boundaries? Sure.
There were times He stayed away when others wanted Him to go (though He at least once went later in secret – John 7:1-10). There were times He resisted the pressure of others to perform in a particular manner (though He sometimes responded anyways – John 2:4-10). He spoke with authority and always conformed to the will of His Father – nothing ever swayed Him from the will of the Father…not even His own agony (Luke 22:42). So, He did live within boundaries. Just not the type of boundaries we often talk about today. He followed God. He loved people. He responded with compassion and generosity to human need, often at His own expense.
In both His life and death, He gave us love we did not deserve.
He emptied Himself totally. He gave of Himself completely. If we are to model our generosity after Christ’s, we must seek to empty ourselves totally. We must submit ourselves to the will of the Father above all else.
Teaching Generosity to Children
If we are going to teach our children to live lives of generosity, we can start by teaching them about the generosity of Jesus. We can teach them, through stories of Christ what true generosity looks like, then we can help them get to know Him personally. We can pray and ask God to put His generosity deep within their spirits and to cultivate those seeds with the water of the Word made flesh. We can pray that their generosity would not be born solely out of habit, but that their generosity would be the fruit of a heart desperate for more of Jesus – for more of His life as theirs.
Then, we can model generosity through our own transformation into Christ-likeness. Radical generosity will not be learned through a simple three step process, but through the transforming power of the life of Jesus Christ within us. We model for our children by responding in obedience to the will of our Father. In absolute surrender and generosity, we give over our wills for His.
We are not afraid of any type of generosity because we are deeply grounded in our reliance upon Christ. We are free to give up everything we have and everything we are because we know how desperately we are loved and cared for by the one who held back nothing for us. If God asks us to give everything, we can respond by giving everything – without fear, in perfect trust in the perfect love of God, and He does in fact ask us to give Him everything.
This type of trust enables us to live radically generous lives. We can care for one another in ways which seem to make no sense because we know God will care for us as His beloved children. We want to care for one another because we are moved by compassion in the same way Christ was moved by compassion and driven by the will of His Father.
When we model this type of radical trust and unreserved generosity to our children (and to a world who is watching), we will show them what it means to be truly generous like Jesus.
There is certainly much we can do to help our children be generous, but anything we do which is not rooted in our desire to be generous as Christ was generous, will likely produce little fruit. It is only through the generosity of Jesus that we can ever hope to become generous people – and to teach the next generation that same generosity.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.