Generosity is truly the gift that keeps on giving. In a culture that seems to celebrate selfishness and the acquisition of possessions, Jesus calls people to live counterculturally with openhanded generosity. Multiple areas of our lives can be blessed if we live generously with our prayers, our time, and our financial resources.
As we read Scripture, Jesus teaches us much about generosity. Here are four generosity lessons we can learn from our Savior:
1. Jesus teaches us to be generous with our prayers (John 17).
Before the most difficult season of His life, Jesus prayed for His disciples. Though He knew that the cross awaited Him, His thoughts in John 17 centered on His Father and His people. He prayed that they would be protected from the evil one (John 17:15). He prayed that the disciples would be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one (John 17:21). He was generous in offering prayer for others when He could have just as easily been self-centered in His prayers.
When we find ourselves in a financial crunch, one temptation is to become selfish. Our generosity dries up, as we hoard our resources and focus our prayers on an effort to get out of the financial crisis we face. We don’t think about others. We forget our responsibility to be generous. We forget that the world does not revolve around us. The high priestly prayer of Jesus shows us that even in the most stressful moments of life, we can be generous in our prayer lives by thinking of God’s glory and others’ needs before our own priorities.
2. Jesus teaches us to be generous with our time (Luke 8:40-56).
It seems like we live in the busiest society in world history. Everyone has multiple commitments, and time thieves are always ready to steal the only resource that is truly nonrenewable. But in the midst of our busy lives, Jesus sets an example of generosity.
In Luke 8, Jesus was called to attend to a health emergency. The daughter of the synagogue ruler was dying. Jairus was desperate, and Jesus stopped what He was doing to attend to her needs. So far, this narrative looks like many other healing accounts in the Gospels.
Along the way to His ministry commitment, Jesus was interrupted. A woman who had suffered for twelve years with a blood disease approached Him. Although Jesus had urgent ministry to do, He stopped to determine who had touched the hem of His garment. Because He is God, He knew the woman already. But Jesus prioritized the woman and her need of physical and spiritual healing, and He was generous with His time. He spoke to her. He showed her compassion. And He met her needs before resuming his trip to the home of Jairus.
Time is limited. Everyone has commitments to family, work, their community, and other priorities. Jesus teaches us to value our time, but to be generous with it as well. Interruptions happen, but they give us opportunities to show Christ’s love and mercy. Children interrupt their parents to show them their newest Lego creation. People in need interrupt busy workers on their lunch break because their burdens are too heavy to bear alone. While we must guard our time and not waste it, Jesus teaches His people to be generous and show His love despite the interruption it may cause.
Jesus teaches us to value our time, but to be generous with it as well.
3. Jesus teaches us to live generously with selflessness (Matthew 6:1-4).
I love being sneaky. When our family sees a military veteran eating out by himself or herself, I do my best to get the check from the server without identifying myself to the veteran. My wife or I will send one of our kids to the table and thank the service member for his or her service, and then we slip out of the restaurant before anyone knows what happened. It would be a lot less fun if the whole world knew what we were doing in that moment.
Jesus warned against selfish generosity. The Pharisees were notorious for making loud pronouncements about their giving and their prayers. They sought the attention of man rather than the glory of God, and Jesus made it clear that, “they have received their reward” (Mt. 6:2).
Generosity doesn’t require announcement. Pay for a veteran’s breakfast. Help cover the grocery bill of the single mom who waits in line behind you at the grocery store. Provide a scholarship so that a needy student can attend church camp. Bless your pastor with a restaurant gift card, but don’t let him know who bought it. By showing generosity with selflessness, you glorify your Father in heaven who will reward you for your Christlikeness (Mt. 6:4).
Generosity doesn’t require announcement.
4. Jesus will always outdo his people in showing generosity (Luke 6:38).
My grandfather was an expect at stealing restaurant tickets from unsuspecting people. No matter how hard I tried to catch up, he always paid for more of my meals than I ever did for him. In fact, he got mad the first time I successfully paid for his meal!
When we show biblical generosity, Jesus always outdoes us. No matter how much we give of our time, talents, and treasure, He will bless us more than we could ever bless Him. Like a grocer measuring out flour or sugar, God will press it down so more will fit, and then He will continue giving until, as David said, “my cup runs over” (Psalm 23:5). Like the hamburger restaurant staff who keeps pouring French fries into the container until they spill out in the bag, God will bless you with far greater generosity than you’re able to show to others.
So be generous! Give freely of your time, talent, and treasure to bless God and others. Be selfless. Follow the example of Jesus. And God will show you in your own life that it is more blessed to give than to receive!