I just can’t wait for the release…here’s an excerpt from the Introduction of my book, Giving Up: How Giving to God Renews Hearts, Changes Minds, and Empowers Ministry. Writing this book made me rethink how I understood church ministry—I hope reading it does the same for you!
Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus lived a generous life. He noticed and commended the many generous people who gave sacrificially. He freely used the generous gifts of others who gave to his ministry. He borrowed the freely offered gift of the donkey colt at Passover and, as prophetically imagined, was laid in the borrowed tomb of the generous Joseph of Arimathea. He chastised the money changers in the temple, who were never generous by any means. And he ripped into those whose seeming generosity was in name only, the showboating Pharisees. They gave money to impress the masses but let their own families suffer in penury.
Once you begin to see and notice the generous Spirit of our Lord, you cannot unsee it. It is everywhere. He gave his time to the unimportant and broken. He gave a new lease on life to the woman caught in adultery. He gave a few words of honesty and encouragement to the Samaritan woman, and she was never the same again. His parables were stories of generous people doing generous things for others. The good Samaritan was generous. The prodigal son’s father was generous. The parable of the hirelings lifts up the generosity of the owner. Jesus gave copious amounts of time to others and always went where he was invited. He was perhaps the most productive person we could ever imagine. And yet, he was never in a hurry. The Scriptures never record Jesus running anywhere. In fact, the only time Jesus seemed to be in a hurry was when he deliberately walked ahead of the crowd (Mark 10:32). Why? Because he was approaching Jerusalem in order to give his life!
He showed his generous heart for others in his deep care for the disenfranchised: those who had been cast aside by the socially, politically, and religiously powerful of his day. It is Jesus who took a little boy’s picnic lunch and generously expanded it into a feast for thousands. Jesus was the one who cursed the fig tree for its lack of fruit—its failure to generously supply the fruit it should have (Matthew 21).
As we see his supreme act of generosity on the cross, consider the generosity of our Lord. All traditional “seven words from the cross” are examples of Christ’s generous nature. He: (1) gave his mother a new family in the home of his best friend; (2) gave forgiveness to his executioners; (3) gave paradise to the thief who repented; (4) was thankful for the small drink of water that he was given; (5) gave up his Spirit to the Father; (6) in great humility, gave the crowd the satisfaction of seeing and hearing his supreme agony; and (7) gave his life as he declared his work finished.
When he walked the earth, Jesus was doing so much more than fulfilling a list of prophecies—though he certainly did that. But he was also displaying and laying the foundation for the fulfillment of God’s vision for his people, announced throughout the Old Testament. God always intended that his chosen people would be a generous offering for the rest of the world: a “sign” to the nations (Isaiah 66:19), a living doorway into God’s presence. Since his calling of Abraham as recorded in Genesis 12, God’s will for his people has been that they would live for others, would invite into the blessing of the Creator those who do not know him. As God said to Abram, so he continues to say to us today: “You have been blessed so that all the nations of the world will be blessed.” So, bless them . . . and do not merely seem to bless them. Esse quam videri.
Christ’s will for his church is nothing less than the fulfillment of that same mission. We are in the world as an offering—a living, breathing invitation.
Nothing could be more crucial for today’s church than recovering Christ’s radical call to self-sacrifice and generosity. True generosity in the church and from the church is the vision I describe in this short book. No other single effort has more potential to magnify the church’s witness in a grasping, hostile, self-centered world than a return to the humble, other-focused giving that typified the church in its earliest days. If the church can recapture Jesus’ original vision of his church as a generous, giving people, we can also recapture the hearts of a fallen world.