“As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.”
1 Timothy 6:17
In the opening post for this series, I introduced the four rhythms of generosity: receiving, co-creating, simplifying, and sharing.
Receiving is the starting point of our lives. We exist as an expression of the overflow of God’s Trinitarian communion.
We participate in a circle of life. Before we can even think about extending generosity, we must acknowledge the source. We are first and foremost recipients. Believers who mature in their faith begin to live a life that’s ripe with the “fruit of the spirit” and one of those fruits is generosity (Gal 5:22-23). For people that understand the true economy of God, their spiritual life is all about receiving gifts. From a worldly perspective this doesn’t make sense. Particularly in individualistic cultures, we chase the dream of earning success and wealth. We see ourselves as the primary actor in this activity.
For followers of Jesus, we know that is a false and dangerously deceptive narrative. We can only love because God first loved us. We can only give because God first gave. God is the source of all good things. There is nothing that we receive that is not a gift from God. The clothes we wear, the food we consume, the air we breathe, intimate moments of prayerful communion in the Spirit… all gifts from God.
We are not the primary actor in the cycle of generosity… God is!
In 1 Timothy we learn of a God who “richly provides us everything for our enjoyment.” Generous people understand this. I confess that in growing up in the context of poverty generosity does not come easy for me. Sometimes as a child I stole things to eat or survive. What many considered basic necessities were not a given for me. That environment bred in me an attitude of scarcity. Will there be enough? Will the well run dry? Will I be able to provide for my family? These were persistent and haunting questions.
It has taken years of inner healing work to embrace an attitude of abundance. I’ve come to the realization that God always provides, that in his kingdom there is always enough, and that the more generous I can be with others, the more God will provide to meet those needs.
I believe God’s primary love language is giving gifts. How did I come to that conclusion you ask? Well… creation, grace, salvation, relationship, resources, the church, and many more. Literally everything we experience as reality is a gift from God. But if that’s not convincing there’s this little gem…
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Arguably the most known Bible verse in the world demonstrates the gift giving nature of God. Even self-professed atheists and not-yet-Christians know this verse, and it communicates something fundamental about God’s nature and heart. Even before we do anything to deserve it, in the fullness of time, while we were yet far away, God gave us the gift of himself… Immanuel “God with Us.” God gives us Jesus, so that we might be restored into a right relationship with God and enjoy eternal life.
In congregations where we understand generosity, this is the prevailing attitude. The people have realized that God’s primary love language is giving gifts! We can become a channel of blessing in the lives of others. The abundance of God is a faucet that never runs dry and never gets turned off. The more we give generously to others as God directs, the more there seems to be to give away.
Each of the four weeks I’ll suggest a simple tool to live more fully into the four rhythms. For week one, let’s start with a gratitude journal.
Week One Exercise: Gratitude Journal Take out a piece of paper and begin to write out a gratitude list. Number each item and in a few words name something or someone you are grateful for. Don’t overthink it. Just begin with whatever comes to mind. Perhaps start at the beginning of your life and write down everything that seems like God’s gift to you. When you are finished, spend some time in prayer thanking God for each item on the list. Or better yet, start a gratitude journal! For the four weeks of the series, add at least five things you are grateful for every day. Why stop when the series is over? Keep making a daily gratitude list for the rest of your life.