The Power of a Generous Life
- Philip Wagner Author
- 2017 24 Jan
While this may seem obvious to you, it is a surprise to many people when they realize that God is generous. I didn’t think God was generous when I was a young man. Somehow, while growing up, I got the idea that if I begged God for help and if I was good enough, He might show me a little mercy. A lot of people have this belief about God. But God is amazingly generous. He made the first move of generosity toward us.
And the second move and the third.
He was the first and is the most generous Giver of all. He’s given us His generous love, generous acceptance and forgiveness, and the generous future that we call the God-dream. Every moment we are alive is a gift from our generous Creator.
He went above and beyond anything we could have imagined: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV)
God loved people so much that He gave. He gave His best. He gave His Son for you and for me. This act of generosity began in His heart first. He loved so He gave.
Once I began to see God’s generosity portrayed throughout Scripture, I saw it everywhere:
When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior. (Titus 3:4-6, NIV)
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5, NIV)
Jesus pointed out an example of generosity that accentuated the importance of this quality for us. The situation also reveals the heart behind this kind of liberality. He was so taken by it that He said wherever the gospel would be preached, this story would be told.
We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving.
Jesus was in the home of some friends when a woman came in and poured a very expensive perfume over His head. Jesus’s friends and disciples immediately criticized this generosity and declared it wasteful. But Jesus saw it a different way.
Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed. (Mt. 26:10-13, NLT)
Her generosity was significant because of the value of her gift: it was a great sacrifice and it revealed the depth of her gratitude. Jesus pointed out that this kind of generous gratitude and worship was to be forever connected to His followers.
It’s clear that generosity is an irreplaceable quality of spirituality. Inside the soul of every person is a desire that God gave us to live the generous life. Generosity is essential to following Jesus. What Jesus expects us to do in life cannot be done without a generous attitude. Generosity is required to trust God at the depth that produces a life of sacrifice, serving others and even forgiving in the same way we are forgiven. We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving.
We are most like God when we are generous. Jesus once told His disciples, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35, NIV)
It’s important that we love the poor and care for the homeless, but Jesus did not say “they will know we are His disciples” because we feed the poor. It’s sometimes easier for us to love strangers than it is to love the people we know because we know their faults and their issues. If people have to deserve what we give, it’s not really generosity. We need to show this generous love and grace to people despite their issues. We can only develop a generous life when we understand where giving begins, and that it is with love. This empowers us toward greater heights of generosity.
Content excerpted from Unlock Your Dream: Discover the Adventure You Were Created For written by Philip Wagner. ©2016 by Philip Wagner, used by permission of WaterBrook & Multnomah. For more information please visit philipwagner.com/unlock-your-dream.
Philip Wagner is the author of Unlock Your Dream: Discover the Adventure You Were Created For (from which this article was excerpted) and the lead pastor of Oasis Church in Los Angeles. Oasis LA is a vibrant, innovative, and culturally diverse church with a strong focus on humanitarian efforts. He’s also the founder and CEO of Generosity.org, an organization dedicated to ending the clean-water crisis in developing countries, one community at a time. He and his wife, Holly, have been married for more than 30 years. Visit him at philipwagner.com.
Image courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: January 24, 2017