The Case for Generosity
2Cor. 8:9 For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to be a generous people and his arguments seem to always have an illustration which comes from the life of Christ. For Paul, Christ is the example, he is the road map for the believer. Yes, a follower of Jesus Christ is to genuinely follow the example of Christ.
This verse is an echo of the kenosis passage in Philippians 2 — where we see the self-emptying of Christ on behalf of you and me. Again, we see that Jesus gave up the richness of God’s kingdom to enter earthly poverty on our behalf.
Could it be that we see Christ in the beggar who stands on the road carrying the hand-written cardboard sign? The word Paul uses here for “poor” is at its root the word for “beggar.” Yes, our king became a beggar and so we must recognize that in the beggars we may see Christ.
At the same time we must know that Paul is constantly calling us to follow him as he follows Christ. The followers of Christ are called to be a generous people — a people who will give to the poor. The case for generosity is based on the example of Christ.
If we are to follow the example of Christ then I think we must evaluate what that looks like for us on a daily basis. Obviously this has been a part of the Christian culture. Putnam tells us, “half of all charitable giving in America is religious in nature.” ( Bowling Alone (Kindle Location 2077). But we should not give, just because it has been historically true for Christians to be generous, but we should be generous because it is the way of Christ.
This really relates to discipleship. Are we learning what it means to be true disciples and followers of Jesus Christ? Jesus was willing to intentionally live a life of poverty to provide a way for us to come to God. Jesus’ entire incarnational life was an act of generosity. As we are living and growing in him, participating in him, we are to be transformed into the likeness of his image, which includes generosity, and while Christians are generous, they still, on average, only give away less than 2% of their annual income. That’s not even a tithe! What does that say for us as Christ’s followers?
Jesus was born into a poor family and he worked hard to help the family. He never aspired to a job that would pay him great amounts of money, but instead lived and worked among the poor so that he could minister to them. At the same time he was comfortable with wealthy folks who were “poor in spirit.” He had wealthy supporters of his ministry and they helped him and the disciples as they did their work.
What do we learn from Christ?
*Intentionality — “he became poor”
*Generosity — he gave away what he had
*Love for the lost — he did this so that we might become rich — rich in becoming partakers of the divine nature.
May we follow Christ practicing intentional generosity from a heart overflowing with love for the poor.
Lord, mold me in your image today. Amen.