Several times a year my father would come home from work, eat his supper, don his one-and-only suit and leave the house for an hour or so. This was unusual because my father generally only wore a suit on Sundays and to weddings and funerals. When I was a kid I remember asking him once where he was going. He smiled his conspiratorial smile and said, "To see my girlfriend." It was sometime later that I discovered that his "girlfriend" was a nurse and my father a regular blood donor! He gave blood until they finally told him that they couldn't allow him to give any more.
Why he needed his Sunday suit to give blood was something I never really figured out, though I suppose he thought that what he was doing was important enough to merit his best foot forward.
Dad didn't have much of this world's treasure, but what he could give he gave freely, consistently and happily. You see, generosity isn't just about money.
In his letter to the Corinthian church Paul addressed the issue of giving generously. "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver" (9:6,7)
In the recorded history of the early days of the church we discover a wonderful example of this kind of generosity. Acts 2 tells us that the believers met regularly to be taught, to fellowship, to break bread together, and to pray. But there was something else that happened as well: "All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need" (2:45, 46).
Several times the New Testament refers to offerings that were taken in one church, and then delivered to another church, to meet a pressing financial need (i.e. Romans 15:26).
They gave generously.
Paul goes on to remind the Corinthians that their generosity will not go unrewarded: "And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:8). What is given by God is to, in some form, be given away.
"Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else" (9:10-13).
Notice the connection: This generous spirit is proof of their confession of Christ.
This generous spirit is a gift of grace given by God. It is not necessarily natural for us to give away what we might be hard-pressed to lose. "God is able to make all grace abound to you" so that "you will abound in every good work" (vs. 8) and "...in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you" (vs. 14).
Of course the ultimate example of generosity is the gift of Jesus given by God with the perfect understanding of the sacrifice that was being made. "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (vs. 15) is something that constantly needs to be on our lips.
Whatever form our giving may take, may it be with a generous and joyful heart, and in the expectation that God will take those gifts and bring glory to His Name through them.