Generosity is a tricky subject because so many think it primarily relates to how much a person gives. However, God’s view of generosity is different. It is about learning to live in agape love where we are not doing what we do in order to get more from others, but in order to give and receive love in a community. When we do this, generosity flows our of hearts in natural ways, with surprising acts that bless others.
God created us in such a way that we actually desire to be generous because we are made in the image of God who constantly pours himself out for others. At the same time, we live in a world that is characterized by selfishness. Why is this the case?
The more we set we our minds on the kingdom of God, the more generosity naturally flows our of our lives. The more we focus on the world in which we are born, the more generosity gets suffocated. The problem is not in telling people to be more generous. The question we must ask is this: where is our mind and heart set?
Generosity flows out of a much deeper well than how much we are giving. When Jesus gives us a model for generosity, he points to an old widow who gives very little. Generosity, therefore, is not about how much you are giving. It’s about learning to live in agape love.
Agape love is other-oriented, choice-based committed love. This is not reactive love. It is proactive in nature reflecting the very nature of God. This stands against the ways of the world, as an alternative to a way of life that is utterly self-oriented. Giving is about learning to let go of control so that we can attain in order to enter into a community that is willing to sacrifice for one another.
Most people today don’t live in agape community, though. They live in contract society, full of transient bonds of mutually-beneficial connections. We relate because we get a certain set of benefits. Therefore, we only relate to others when they offer a benefit to us. As a result, agape community is not natural in a world defined by contract relationships, which means that generosity in a contract society often gets reframed according to whether or not it is beneficial to me.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul encourages us to give out of joy. This is not another task about the right way to give. It’s an indicator of the source of our generosity. If we are not experiencing joy as we give, then we are not giving out of the right place. The question then we face is: how do we move from here to there? How do we shift into a place of being generous out of the right place? This leads us to the topic of humility which means that in an agape community, there is no hierarchy where we can claim that some people are better than others. A few practical guidelines arise out of this:
- Offer agape love to others whether or not it is reciprocated.
- Get good at having agape love for ourselves.
- Allow others to love you.
God is calling us into a community where our possessions matter less. This occurs as we set our minds on the Kingdom of God and not on the kingdoms of this world and therefore frees us to be generous.
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