A Compelling Lifestyle
Recently I wrote about how I believe the paradigm for ministry is changing. As Christians are no longer a majority in our culture, we need to work as the early church did when it was a minority.
I emphasized that building relationships is now one of our primary tasks, backed up by the work of establishing a credible lifestyle. In other words, what would capture the attention and respect of a watching world and help them want to hear what we have to say about our beliefs in Jesus?
One of the first qualities that everyone respects is generosity. Generous living is a compelling lifestyle.
First, let’s consider our culture. For Americans, current levels of charitable giving are somewhere between 2-3% of annual income. According to philanthropyroundtable.org, “Religious causes are, and always have been, Americans’ favorite charitable targets.” But even much of what is given to a religious cause “goes into sub-causes like relief for the poor, medical care, education, or aid sent to low-income countries or victims of disaster.”
But catch the overall percentage. Most Americans do not give with any sense of regularity, but Christians do. It does not take much digging to find out that what pulls the averages up for our entire nation is the disciplined, widespread, and sacrificial giving of Christians.
Second, consider the alternative. If you’re a committed secularist (atheistic or agnostic), believing in a non-personal existence (vs. a Personal creation), and a Darwinian cosmos (where the strong eat the weak and only the fittest survive), what possible motive could you have to give anyone anything? Unless they’re your children, yet even then, you could easily perceive them as rivals (just read Shakespeare).
And lastly, think about redemption. Our core beliefs are anchored by statements like “God so loved the world that He gave …” And “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” And “Freely you have received; freely give.”
Generosity is a facet of the diamond of God's kindness. It makes sense that as God designed us to image Him, as He is kind, so we should be kind. And if the pinnacle of that loving kindness is in the Gospel, then how much more does it fit that people who say they believe in that saving Grace would also begin to reflect His likeness in kindness and eagerness to share what we believe God has freely given to us? There are scores of commands in the New Testament calling us to be eager to share, be hospitable, and welcome outsiders rather than exclude, etc.
These are all aspects of generosity. Therefore, if other people in your life were evaluating your generosity, what kind of grades would you get?
Like many sports, generosity is one where almost no one starts off well. What is the plague of every playground or toddler’s play date? It’s the instinct to snatch and grab, if not punch. So by our fallen nature, we all start as little burglars, and some inauspiciously begin with armed robbery.
So, praise God for His saving love, power, and wisdom in Christ!! If Jesus comes right at us in our worst, selfish instincts, and promises to not merely forgive us but especially to transform us, then what kind of hope does He provide? And consider two additional consequences: 1) how badly do the people in your life need that hope? And 2) how compelling would they find your faith if you were more generous?
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