The Generous Life
One of the ways to live a joyous life is to live a generous life. John Andrew Holmes, a modern American writer, once wrote, “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” In other words, are you feeling down and discouraged? Don’t just focus on fixing your own circumstances; focus on helping others. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). When it comes to generosity, Solomon taught five key principles in the end of Ecclesiastes, and when it comes to actually living them out, Jesus supplies the power in the gospel.
Generosity is the best investment strategy - Solomon wrote, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days” (Ecclesiastes 11:1). Solomon turned this ancient proverb for wasteful expenditure on its head, because, generosity is never wasted; it’s invested. Generosity is like a boomerang; either in this life or the next, it’s coming back to you. However, the point is not to give in order to get, but to give knowing that you can never lose. God wants his people to give with the confidence that they can never lose in helping others. Simply stated, what may appear today to be a waste of your money will one day prove to be one of the best investments that you’ve ever made. No act of generosity will ever be wasted.
Generosity is the natural result of a full life - “If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves on the earth” (Ecclesiastes 11:3a). Solomon stated the obvious to make the point that as the clouds naturally bless the earth out of their fullness, so Christians bless others out of the fullness of what they already have in Jesus. This was the case with Francis Ridley Havergal, who penned the popular hymn, “Take my life and let it be.” She was so overcome by God’s grace in sending his Son to die for her sins that she wanted to give her life to help others. In that hymn, she wrote, “Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold,” and she meant it. In a letter to a friend, she explained that she had heard about a great need in India, and decided to collect all her jewelry (thousands of dollars worth) and send it overseas. She wrote to her friend, “I don’t think I ever packed a box with such pleasure.” It wasn’t out of compulsion. No one was twisting her arm. This was the natural result of a life that was aware of God’s abundant grace.
Generosity is possible wherever God has placed you - “If a tree falls to the south or to the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie” (Ecclesiastes 11:3b). Just as God determines where a tree will fall and lie, so God determines where a person will live and give. The Apostle Paul taught that, “God has determined allotted periods and the boundaries of our dwelling place” (Acts 17:26). Wherever God has placed you, that is the place where you are to give. As the old saying goes, “Bloom where you are planted.”
Generosity is not dependent upon your circumstances - “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4). Solomon was addressing the person who is waiting for all the right circumstances to happen before he or she will give. You may think, “When I make more money, when I get on my feet, or when I get this promotion, then I’ll start being generous.” Yet, remember the widow’s mite? She was faithful with just the little that she had. John D. Rockefeller, the wealthy businessman, once said, “I never would have been able to tithe on the first million dollars I ever made if I had not tithed my first salary, which was $1.50 per week.” The way to be generous tomorrow is to start being generous today.
Generosity is a lifestyle of seizing every opportunity - Finally, Solomon taught, “In the morning sow your seed and at evening withhold not your hand” (Ecclesiastes 11:6). Generosity isn’t a one-time moment in your day; it’s a lifestyle of seizing every moment in your day to help others. Generosity isn’t about “doing your good deed for the day”; it’s about looking for every opportunity to bless people.
The Power of the Gospel - However, if people are honest, then they will recognize that they haven’t always lived the generous life that God requires. To one degree or another, everyone has succumbed to the lies of materialism and the pitfall of greed. But the good news of the gospel is that, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God is the one who was and is perfectly generous. God generously gave his best and Jesus generously gave his life. Jesus didn’t just cast his bread upon the waters; he cast his life upon a cross to deliver his people from the pit of greed. Jesus lived the generous for you and wants to live that same generous life through you. People can know all the principles of generosity hanging on the wall, but only knowing the person of Jesus hanging on the cross for their sins, is what will empower them to give their lives in generosity to others and live with joy.