In a wonderfully surprising story, Allison Fallon used to think she was a generous person…That was until she met her husband. Described by others an incredibly generous person, Darrell, shared one day with his new wife what made his generosity take root. “If you want to become better at giving, you need to become better at receiving, too!’.1
Think about it…like many, here was a person who actually thought she was a fairly generous person but in reality her inability to receive from others stunted her capacity to be generous. As you reflect on this for a bit I think it will make sense. Remember from my last blog that generosity actually includes much more than simply giving money. In one’s abundance of resources – possessions, emotional support, and expertise or time to help someone, the capacity to welcome others and include them in, even the capacity to forgive – generosity is being “open-handed” knowing that God has given a super-abundance to us. Generosity then is a heart condition, or maybe more accurately capacity or space in the heart for others and God.
What will mere giving and not being able to receive do to a person’s heart? You might think of other difficulties but it seems to me that practiced enough it would leave a person isolated from real relationships with a sense of pride and importance that would lead only to a mechanical kind of giving, if any. In addition, I wonder how much joy would there be in giving but never really knowing what it’s like to be a recipient. It seems, in a paradoxical way, that when one receives from others it heightens their ability to joyfully and generously give.
The gospel as good news from God is summarized very simply in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” In other words, the gospel at its core is the self-giving of the Father by giving His Son and the self-giving of the Son on the cross then giving His Spirit. How do you become a generous person? When you understand the generosity of God in self-giving.
The Apostle Paul applies this to giving financially in 1 Corinthians 8 (but you can apply it to any resource above). Rather than command believers in the church to give he writes,
I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. (1 Corinthians 8:8,9, NIV)
What a beautiful way to motivate people to be generous! The generosity of God (the space
He has in heart for you as He gives freely out of the super-abundance of His resources), is this: Jesus who was rich beyond all measure became poor for you so that you in the poverty of your sin might become rich in Him. Now, be generous as you have been generously treated because of the gospel!
Your ability to receive the gift of salvation and ongoing grace from God is the seed to becoming a generous person. When that gospel seed gets into and works in your heart, it’s going sprout in greater generosity!
1Allison Fallon, A Surprising Way to Become More Generous, http://storylineblog.com/2015/10/16/a-surprising-way-to-become-more-generous/