Redefine Rich: Generosity Changes Us
Rachel Billups | 6 minute read
Having money isn’t a bad thing.
It’s what we do with our money, how we spend that makes us rich – or not.
“Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account.” (Philippians 4: 14-17 NIV).
Paul was in prison when he wrote that. Prison in the 1st century was very different than the industrial complexes in our modern world. There were no jailhouse cafeterias, work yards or regard for human life. To survive, Paul had to depend on the generosity of others outside the prison. The longer you were locked up, the more difficult life became.
Paul was being visited by Epaphroditus, who’s brought with him a significant financial gift for Paul from the Jesus followers of Philippi. We know it’s significant because it required a person to ensure that it actually landed in Paul’s hands.
These Jesus followers have done this before. They’d supported Paul throughout the Mediterranean world. Because of their generosity the very work of God was empowered and exploded beyond their own region.
WE ARE WIRED FOR GENEROSITY
The Christian movement, was ignited in the book of Acts. Jesus’ teaching of love and forgiveness for all spread like wildfire. Equipped with the Holy Spirit, there was something contagious about followers of Jesus—how they spoke, how they lived, how worshiped, how they dealt with life’s challenging circumstances and how they shared their resources.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2: 44-47 NIV).
Clearly these Jesus followers had been wired for generosity.
“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.” (James 1: 16-18 NIV).
Firstfruits is the same term used throughout the Old Testament to talk about giving and tithing. Giving God the first 10 percent of the harvest–or in modern terms the first 10 percent of your income.
But here’s something interesting:
“Millennials prioritize hospitality far more than money as an expression of generosity. At a different extreme are Elders who are much more likely than average to strongly associate service with generosity and not at all likely to choose hospitality.” (Barna, 30).
Every generation has a desire to be generous, yet every generation has a unique way to express that generosity.
We need all generations working together to be the full expression of the body of Christ! Gathering together for common worship, serving together for common good, sharing our resources as a common practice, and together embodying the love of God as common witness – at every age and stage.
The church in Philippi embraced this reality.
AWAKENED BY GENEROSITY
Their generosity wasn’t about the money. It was about what God was doing inside each one of them.
Remember Zacchaeus? The “wee little man and wee little man was he?” This resented tax collector was curious about Jesus, so he climbed a tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus passing by. Jesus saw him, then invited himself over to Zacchaeus’ house for dinner. Jesus’ radical inclusion of Zacchaeus–a traitor, an outcast–compelled Zacchaeus to declare, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19: 8-10 NIV).
What’s the sign that Zacchaeus is being awakened to the reality that he needs a savior? —generosity!
He gives his money away.
He began giving his life away.
Have you ever felt like your faith is a little stale? Let your life be revived, let your calendar be redeemed, let God birth something new in you!
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Matthew 16:25 NLT).
Generosity in all its forms IS the sign of a life transformed by Jesus. It’s an awakening within ourselves and a witness to the world.
CHANGED BY GENEROSITY
Generosity changes us.
Giving money isn’t really about giving money.
Yes, the church has bills to pay.
We also have a vision for reaching the community that’s so big God will have to supernaturally provide – but even that’s not the point of generosity.
Generosity is about what happens inside of you.
“…for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 16-20 NIV).
When the Philippians engaged in this act of generosity, it was credited to their account.
Paul’s declaring that generosity is good for the giver!
It transforms the giver because full circle generosity transforms us. It’s how we become more like Jesus.
I want you to meet Bruce Boyd. Bruce is a friend of mine, a Jesus follower and a committed Ginghamsburger. Bruce’s life and faith has been transformed by generosity.
So, what about you?
How might you allow generosity to change you?
Because once generosity changes you, generosity can change the world.
Watch the full message: