Summary: What should God's generosity cause us to do? (Material Adapted from Ben Patterson's book, He Has Made Me Glad, chapter 10 Hilarious Generosity)
Ben Patterson- When Lauretta and I were first married, we were very poor. The 3 necessities of food, clothing, and shelter weren’t quite within our grasp. We could manage only 2 out of 3- not bad as a batting average, but miserable if you’re trying to live. My employment was selling swimming pools. The first 6 months we were married, I sold 2. One Saturday morning the company I worked for asked me to drive down to Irvine, California, to pick up a payment for a pool sold by one of the other salesman. How humiliating! Oh well, since Irvine was near Newport Beach, Lauretta and I decided to make a day of it and have a picnic at the beach after I picked up the check. The man who bought the pool was a Christian psychologist of the Pentecostal variety, a mix of pop psychology and Sprit filled enthusiasm. He was friendly and insisted that we come into his kitchen for a cup of coffee before giving us the check. As we sipped from our mugs, he launched into a lecture about the joys of tithing. At first I was puzzled at this, but I put up with it so we could get the check and get out. But as the minutes passed, I found myself feeling increasingly like he had read my mind, or my mail. It had been years since I had given much to anything but my own whims and desires. I had felt uneasy about my selfishness, but now I was feeling something different. It wasn’t guilt; it was more like longing, but for what? Had I been asked to name it I would have said I was longing for freedom. After he wrote the check, he walked us out. As we pulled away, my heart was pierced by what he had said. My lack of generosity extended to places beyond my pocketbook. As Lauretta and I drove down the Costa Mesa Freeway toward the Pacific Ocean, I asked her how she felt about what that man had said. She replied that she too was deeply touched. As we talked, we decided to make a go of tithing. So we couldn’t afford food, clothing, shelter- so what? Had no Jesus promised that our Father in heaven would give us all we needed if we sought first His kingdom? The weeks that followed were just like stories I had read in Christian magazines. Somehow the money was always there. Once the amount we needed for rent appeared the day it was due, sealed in an envelope stuck in our mailbox. Another time we got a check for $100, the exact amount we needed for car insurance. And that was only the beginning of the fun in freedom and generosity as we started to not only give to the church but also to others.
We see in creation that God acted in sovereign and gracious freedom when he spoke it into existence. The creation is a free gift, extravagantly given. When we are generous we are merely agreeing with the nature of existence, living according to the way things are.
Also God governs the universe with the same extravagant generosity he displayed when he made it. Notice that as he governs he doesn’t seem to care who receives his kindness. Paul said this to pagans far from God: “Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”” Acts 14:17, NIV.
Now redemption is the best part of his generosity. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23, NIV. We have refused to live according to the standard God set when he made us. Who knows better than our Creator what we were made to be? We do, we vainly imagine: we think we can be our own masters, be equal with God, even. But we turn out to be less than human in the attempt. The wages of sin is death, and its root is ingratitude. This morning from Romans 1:21
What does God do with these ungrateful rebels who are dying because of their sin? He is generous, he graciously reaches out and seeks them. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”” Luke 19:10, NIV. His search took him to the cross. This was given freely whether those he seeks ever notice or care about his generosity. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8, NIV. This is grace unheard of on a human level. God already went far beyond what we would do. He isn’t generous because we deserve it, after all it wouldn’t be generosity if we did- it would be wages.