Jesus said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much” (Luke 16:10).
I sometimes think I would be more generous if I had more money. I earn a comfortable living, but I am not rich, at least not by modern, Western standards. If I made more, I would be more generous. Or so I like to think.
Jesus contradicts my thinking. He says the level of our generosity determines what we do with what we have; it is not determined by what we have. “He who is faithful in little is also faithful in much, and he who is dishonest in little is also dishonest in much.”
Think of the Macedonians. Paul writes, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4).
Or, by contrast, think of the rich fool. Jesus says when this man’s fields produced more than his barns could hold, instead of giving away the surplus with joy, he built for himself bigger barns.
The lesson here is obvious. Making more money will not make me more generous with my money. Generosity must be developed another way. But how? How does someone who by nature is selfish and self-seeking become selfless and self-giving?
Like the proverbial kid in Sunday School, I am pretty sure the answer is “Jesus.” However, this needs some fleshing out. How does seeing Jesus’s selfless, self-sacrifice for us (see Philippians 2:1-11) make me more generous? I know many people who have been the recipients of great generosity who did not become generous. On the contrary, they became more selfish and demanding. How, then, does seeing Jesus’s generosity renew and transform our hearts?
The problem with those who are not transformed by received generosity seems to be they do not see themselves as the beneficiaries of generosity. They see themselves as entitled. They regard the good they receive as their due, and often as less than their due; they think they deserved more and better. Therefore, the generosity they receive hardens, rather than softens, their hearts.
If the radical generosity of Jesus towards us is going to make us more generous, we must see it as the radical generosity it is. That means we must see ourselves as sinners justly deserving only God’s wrath. Most people today see themselves as sinners. After all, nobody is perfect; to err is human. However, few see themselves as deserving eternal condemnation. Until we see ourselves truly we will not see the true measure of God’s generosity toward us.
However, for Jesus’s generosity to have its full effect on us, we must see more than its extent. We must also see its excellence; we must see the beauty of Jesus’s generosity. Too often we think of the generosity we are commanded to show to others as the distasteful, less-than-pleasant thing God asks us to do for him because he has done so much for us. However, if we view generosity this way, it will not be long before we burn out with compassion fatigue. If we are to become truly generous people, we must come to see generosity as something beautiful and good. We must come to see that God has created us, and redeemed us, to find our joy, not in grasping his goods for ourselves, but in sharing his goods with others. We must come to believe what Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
So, we do not become more generous by making more money. Rather, we become more generous by seeing both the extent and the excellence of Jesus’s generosity toward us. As we approach Easter, I am praying that God would give me eyes to see Jesus’s sacrifice this way. I would encourage you to do the same.