By Tyler Edwards
“Look out for number one.” “Get what’s yours.” “Take care of yourself.” These are just a few of the lessons we learn from the world. The phrases may vary but the point is the same. Life is all about getting as much as you can and holding onto it for as long as possible. The self-centered life does have its appeal, but it fails in one department: love.
Life is not about us. It’s about Jesus. What we do, who we are, what we have: it’s all about him. Jesus is all about the lost. Jesus shared his heart with us in Matthew 28 by inviting us to be a part of his mission to seek and save the lost people of this world. The heart of God bleeds and breaks for the lost. Luke 15 gives us three portraits to show us this: the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.
The pictures are different but the message is the same. God loves people. His desire is that no one would perish and all his children would enter into a real relationship with him and thus take hold of the life only he can give.
Jesus came into the world to live as a testimony of God’s love for us, so that through him we might be saved. As his followers, God sends us to carry out his will. The responsibility of every Christian therefore is to show the love of God to people so they can come to know him and enter into a relationship with him.
Show Me the Money
Jesus told a parable about a shrewd manager to teach us to use money to gain friends (Luke 16:1-9). It might seem a bit unorthodox, but Jesus actually taught us to buy friendship. He referred to it as a wise use of earthly resources.
Generous people are popular. Stingy people are not. Have you ever heard someone say, “My best friend is super rich. When I was going through hard times financially, he could have helped me out and solved all my problems with what he carries in his pocket, but he didn’t. I just love that about him; he’s so stingy. Who doesn’t love a tightwad?”
We reflect the heart of God when we are generous. God is a Father who loves to dote on his children. Not only does he give us life, he offers joy, peace, hope, and purpose. He protects us. He provides for us. God makes sure we have everything we need. We may take his generosity for granted, but every time we sit down for a meal, write a check that doesn’t bounce, fill the gas tank, or deposit money into a savings account, we do so because of God’s provision. Sometimes we don’t realize it because we work to make the money; but our labor and God’s provision go hand in hand. God provides more than we need so we can share what we have.
The Heart and the Wallet
Every year the church I serve hosts an outreach event in our community to display the love of Jesus through generosity. We give parents of low-income families toys so their kids can enjoy Christmas. Through this event we connected with a man who had been struggling with drugs. He was facing jail time and was on the brink of divorce. The toys we gave him for his family meant the world to him. Having seen what Jesus was all about, he became a Christian. He got clean. He didn’t have to go to jail. He reconciled with his wife. We baptized her six months later. Now they are an active part of our church family and they help bring gifts to give to other families in need. There is no better way to show the love of Jesus than to be generous.
Sadly many within the Christian faith haven’t learned this lesson. I waited tables for about seven years when I was in school. I worked in several different restaurants in a number of different cities. In all that time I observed one consistent truth: Sunday mornings are the worst shift to work. The serving community views the after-church crowd as grumpy, rude, and cheap. This is a poor witness—and a poor reflection on our loving, generous God.
Don’t be a cheapskate. If Jesus were as stingy with his love as we often are with our stuff, life would not be worth living. Jesus gives hope, joy, protection, healing, provision, and life. He doesn’t give so we can live like kings while the world around us struggles, but so we can bless others in return. Jesus equips us with the tools to be his hands and feet to people in need.
Generosity is not something most people understand. The world is all about getting. Jesus is all about giving. That’s what grace is all about. Jesus graciously gives us the salvation and life we could not get for ourselves. What better way to show others the grace of God than by giving them something without asking for anything in return?
It’s not all about money. Generosity can take many forms. Mow your neighbors’ lawn. Wash their car. If their car breaks down, help them with repairs. Loan them your car. Take a meal to them. You can be generous with your time, talent, and treasure. When we give generously, people get confused. When people get confused, they start asking question. Their questions can lead to Jesus.
Generosity Shows God’s Love
Generosity is the tangible expression of an intangible love. Words can be ignored; actions cannot. Generosity is best understood as an act of love. When you are generous toward others, you are telling them you love and value them. You don’t have to be rich. Some of the most generous people I know have just enough to get by.
A woman who had been burned by religious people years before visited our church. She had vowed never to step inside a church building again. But when families from our church took her some supplies and met her needs in a practical way, her heart was opened and she was willing to give God another shot. All because we were generous with her, and through that, she saw God’s love.
Our mission in life is to show the world the love of Jesus. We are here to glorify him and love him by bringing his lost children home. One of the best ways to do that is to be generous with people.
Giving up what we don’t really need to help others may open their eyes to Jesus and change their eternal hope. Let’s use the temporal things of life to lead others to eternal life. Whether a lot or a little, use what you have to show people the love of Jesus. It is all about Jesus; showing people his love is the reason we live.
Living the Love of Jesus
The reason most people don’t believe in Jesus is because they’ve never seen him. We spend a lot of time talking about the love of God, but sometimes we neglect to show it. We can talk about Jesus, but people may not understand until we show them what his love is like. Our God is a gracious and generous God who gives us life through his Son. If we cannot give sacrificially to show others how God’s grace works, then what are we doing? Our job is to show the world the love of Jesus. There is no better way to do that than to use what God has given us to be generous toward those who do not know him.
Tyler Edwards is the minister of Cornerstone Christian Church in Joplin, Missouri.
Resources to Energize You and Your Church
Tales of the Not Forgotten
by Beth Guckenberger
Tales of the Not Forgotten Leader’s Guide
by Beth Guckenberger
Beyond Your Backyard
by Tom Ellsworth
Beyond Your Backyard Group Member Discussion Guide
by Tom Ellsworth and Jon Weiner
Called, Challenged, Changed (adult mission journal set)
Anticipate, Experience, Reflect (teen mission journal set)
For more information, visit www.standardpub.com.