by: Denise Robinson
An Attitude of Generosity
2 Cor. 9:6-15; 2 Chron. 1:7-12
This morning we continue on our journey on the Gratitude Path, the path Jesus during his lifetime on earth. The path begins – and our journey last week began – with an Attitude of Gratitude. In our attitude of gratitude, we remember to pause and give thanks to God. Throughout the Gospels we see a pattern of Jesus withdrawing from the crowds to go off by himself for some quiet time to give thanks to God. We see Jesus giving thanks before breaking bread, giving thanks before performing miracles, giving thanks in all circumstances, even thanking God in the face of the cross. But then, as we read, another pattern emerges – one that leads from an attitude of gratitude to an attitude of generosity.
You know the story of the feeding of the 5,000. How Jesus, after multiplying the loaves and the fishes, gives thanks to God. Did you ever ask yourself what Jesus would’ve done if he hadn’t been given the 5 loaves and 2 fish? What if he’d had only 1 loaf and 2 fish? We know instinctively that with Jesus it wouldn’t have made a difference. Jesus could’ve done the same thing with one bread crumb and a fish fin. He could’ve fed them out of nothing? But I wonder whether Jesus would have – would he have fed the 5,000 if no one gave anything? I don’t think so. The principle at work is that Jesus took what the boy willingly gave and he increased it. The lesson is that the amount we give is less important than the spirit with which we give. Of course, there’s another lesson there as well – the boy gave all he had. He didn’t hold back. Even though it made no sense. Logically, his meager loaves and fish couldn’t few more than a few people a mouthful. There were so many and he had so little. Why give at all?
When the Apostle Paul starts his conversation about generosity in 2 Cor. 9, he doesn’t start with a need that God has but with a grace that God wants to give. (READ 2 Cor. 9:6-15). Paul’s agricultural analogy is one that makes sense even to us today. What you reap is in proportion to what you sow. One tomato plant will produce a few tomatoes for a salad, but if you want to can jars of sauce or salsa, you know you better plant more than one. The decision, as Paul says in v. 7, is up to each of us. You decide what you want to reap. So, don’t make the decision reluctantly or as if you’re being forced. Make it cheerfully! The Greek word that is translated as cheerfully here might actually be better translated as “hilariously” or “hysterically.” When was the last time you gave hysterically? Think about how your attitude of generosity might change if you gave with a sense of laughter.
In verses 8-9, Paul begins to explain how giving works with God. When we give, we not only have enough for ourselves but we have enough to share. And not just enough to share a little, but enough to share abundantly. This, Paul says, means we should expect a “harvest of righteousness.” This phrase actually comes from the Book of Hosea, Hosea 10:12. There it says: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love … for it’s time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” When we give, God rains down grace and gifts upon us. The key to our Scripture this morning comes from verses 11 and 12. This is the promise: “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity.” What does Paul mean when he says in “every” way?
Some when they read this think it’s about God’s great financial investment program. If we give financially, we can expect a fair (or even better) return on our investment. Like consulting with our financial advisor. Now there may be some truth to this. In my life, I’ve had times when I was convinced, I couldn’t give generously – I had student loans, other bills, was starting my own household. But the truth is, we will always have excuses not to give or that we can’t give now but will give later. Someday. Which somehow never comes. But, over my lifetime, I’ve found that when I give generously, I receive more than enough. It’s not logical … but it’s true. That being said, the generosity Paul is talking about isn’t limited to financial generosity. God wants us to be generous in every part of our lives so that He can bless every part of our lives. Prayers, presence, service, talents, witness – and yes, our money. God wants it all, a total commitment. But not for Him; for us. So that we will be enriched in “every” way. “Every” is a big word.
So, if we give generously, is there something we can expect to receive? Scripture tells us that there are several things actually. First, giving gives us greater contentment. We are better off physically, mentally, and spiritually when we give generously. Second, giving gives us a greater love for the kingdom of God. Matthew 6:21 reminds us that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also. Put your treasure in a place, love it more. Third, giving clarifies your purpose in life. It makes you think about what’s really important. In 2 Chron. 1:7-12, Solomon was granted one wish by God. Anything he wanted would be his. No restrictions. I did a scientific survey (Google search) and found that the top three things we would request are wealth, a time machine, and more wishes (health came in a tie). Solomon, in that instant, became aware of his purpose – to rule and lead Israel – and his shortcomings. He asked for wisdom and knowledge to lead God’s people. God granted his wish, but added to it, enriching Solomon in every way: wealth, happiness, long life, etc. We also have a purpose: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. How are you generously pursuing that objective? Finally, generous giving leads to a more loving heart. One that gives glory to God.
Most of us, when we think about giving, think it’s about what God – and the church – wants from us. But according to Paul, generosity is a state of mind and a practice God wants for us. And the more we give, the more we experience God’s grace.
Did you ever wonder about the ending to the story of the feeding of the 5,000? The Gospels tell us about Jesus and the disciples, but nothing of that young boy who gave. We do know that after all the 5,000 had eaten their fill, the leftovers were collected and filled twelve baskets. I like to think that the young boy went home with a couple of those baskets.
We come now to the time for our offering – our opportunity to give to God. Thus Sunday, as we do every Sunday after we give, we stand and sing the Doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow….” This Sunday, practice smiling or even laughing as you give.