Today, we will consider some of the benefits of generosity, but first, let’s consider some of the pressures of life from which we need relief and because of which we need refreshing.
Many stresses and pressures occupy our daily lives.
We have the pressure of shelter and food. The concerns of our body take up quite a bit of time. What we will eat and what we will wear may only be a small part of our financial concerns, but clothing and food are never completely ignored. Once the basic needs are met, our minds turn to storing up for the future or increasing our prosperity. We call it getting ahead, and it means different things for different people. Better vacations, travel and destinations occupy the thoughts of many. Others are taken up with houses, automobiles, yards and gardens. Still others spend their time preparing for retirement and providing for the future.
Jesus addressed these concerns in a talk we call the Sermon on the Mount. In this talk, Jesus tells us how to live as citizens of the Kingdom of God. When we believe in Jesus, we become citizens of this kingdom. Jesus says:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:25-33 ESV)
In these words, Jesus tells us not to worry or be anxious. The reason He gives for our ability to relax and let go is our Heavenly Father's knowledge of our needs. After giving us this reason, Jesus tells us there is something else we should focus on. Rather than focusing on our needs, we must focus on the Kingdom of God.
The context of these instructions is reducing worry and anxiety. When we focus on ourselves, we only increase our anxiety and worries. As instructions from the Lord, we should seek to obey the admonition to seek the Kingdom of God above all else, but there is a very practical benefit in freeing ourselves from anxiety.
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV)
In stating that these two commandments are the greatest, Jesus teaches us that these two things are the most important things in life.
In other words, God and others are the most important things in life. When we are selfish, we neglect the most important things in life, and as a result, cannot help but experience anxiety and stress.
Philippians 2:3-4 teaches us a principle that comes from this concept. It says:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:3-4 ESV)
The Bible has a lot to say about being generous and looking out for others. Here is a list of other verses that address this issue.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ESV)
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Corinthians 10:24 ESV)
For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. (James 3:16 ESV)
Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. (Romans 15:2 ESV)
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. (Proverbs 11:25 NIV)
This is the final message on our series “Refresh.” I chose the NIV for this last verse because it uses the word refresh. When we trust God for our needs, our faith results in our being refreshed. When we find ourselves satisfied in God and with His provision, we are free to be generous. Our faith in Jesus Christ leads us to be refreshed by being generous.
So far, we have seen that the solution for anxiety is to change our focus from ourselves. We have also seen that the most important things in life are God and others. In this series, we have looked at how Sabbath, rest, gratitude and prayer are essential parts of our refreshing and we have looked at how they must be a part of our lives as believers. Generosity is a natural outgrowth of rest, gratitude and prayer.
It may seem the opposite of what we would naturally think, but putting others first is important to our emotional and spiritual refreshing. Building regular acts of kindness, giving and service into our lives is an important part of having a vital, joy-filled emotional and spiritual life.
The first benefit of generosity that refreshes us is purpose and meaning.
When the Apostle Paul wrote thanking his friends in Philippi for their financial support, he said:
Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. (Philippians 4:17 ESV)
Paul worked at the preaching of the gospel and building the Kingdom of God. By supporting his ministry, the Philippians were storing up treasures for themselves in heaven, and they were at the same time refreshing themselves spiritually by participating in something with purpose and value. We do the same when we support, pray for and encourage missionaries. Through practicing generosity, we become part of something much bigger than ourselves.
The second benefit of generosity is an awareness of the tremendous riches with which God has blessed us. Whether we give material goods or our time or our kindness, generosity grows out of and is strengthened by what God, through Jesus Christ has done for us. A good example of what I am talking about is found in Philippians 2. Philippians 2:1-3 says:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 2:1-3 ESV)
Verse 1speaks of some of the benefits of our salvation. It begins with the word “if.” However, there is no question implied by the word “if.” Rather, the Apostle is pointing to the certainty of these things. We have encouragement and comfort from and in Christ and His love. We have been given the Holy Spirit by which we have the certain knowledge that we are children of God. In light of these things, we are instructed to give up selfish ambition and conceit and we are encouraged to be humble and count others as more important than ourselves. The more aware we are of how much we have been given, the more grateful we will be and the more we will find joy in sharing with others. Generosity reinforces our awareness of the tremendous riches we have in Christ Jesus.
Another point of stress we have from which we need relief comes from relationships. Offenses are unavoidable, and it is inevitable that we will be hurt by others. One of the benefits of generosity is freedom from bitterness and anger, and deliverance from guilt.
It may seem strange to talk about guilt in a message about generosity, but I hope to make clear the connection.
The following incident took place in the life of Jesus. Jesus was invited to a Pharisee’s house for a meal and during the meal, a woman came in and began washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. When the Pharisee thought to himself that Jesus must not know what kind of woman this was, Luke records the incident for us, saying:
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little." (Luke 7:44-47 ESV)
Look at how unsparingly the woman gave to Jesus! She was inspired by the forgiveness that she received.
The relief from the pain of broken relationships begins with forgiveness. We can forgive because we have been forgiven. Forgiving others flows out of generosity inspired by what God has done for us.
If we harbor bitterness, envy and unforgiveness in our hearts, we will not enjoy rest, refreshing and a vital spiritual life. The practice of forgiving others involves a growing awareness of the great price God has paid for us, the great debt we owed and how freely He has forgiven us. Jesus stated plainly that if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us, and we desperately need His forgiveness. God was generous toward us in forgiving our debt, and because of this, we can be generous with others in forgiving their debts.
Generosity helps meet our need for meaning and significance.
Generosity brings to our awareness the great blessings God has poured out on us.
Generosity frees us from bitterness and anger.
Generosity can be summed up in the words of 1 John 4.
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:7-8, 19 NASB)