“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
This sentence from John 3:16 is probably the most famous sentence in Scripture, and it explains to us just how much God loves us. This is also a template of how God wants us to love others: as He “so loved the world, that He gave His only Son”, we must emulate Him by stepping out of our comfort zones and give to others with all of our “soul”. This type of love is a great (and the best) example of generosity, which was what Dale decided to speak about.
Dale began his sermon with 2 Corinthians 8:1-7, which gives a great description of joyful giving by the Macedonians, who “gave according to their means” and “beyond their means, of their own accord”. They also understood to Whom these resources belonged, as they “gave themselves first to the Lord” before they gave to others. It is evident from scripture that the Macedonians had the love of God in them (I’ll later explain this as the source of generosity) and they should serve as examples to all of us on living generous lives. Dale obviously believes this, since he also gave stories of generosity about different members of the congregation, where their actions mirrored that of the Macedonians. Dale later stated that “forgiveness” might be the “greatest act of generosity”; this appears to be true when you consider what God had to do in order to forgive us of our sins.
Although generosity seems to be a very standard way of Christian living, as Dale’s sermon had shown, I would imagine that some Christians are still a bit hesitant to give more of their time/money/skills/etc. This shouldn’t be, as Christians can benefit from practicing generosity (in a non-selfish way, of course).
Generosity is One way of Obeying the Greatest Commandment. According to Merriam-Webster, the word “generosity” is defined as the quality or fact of being generous, and “generous” is defined as liberal in giving. So as we can see, when we engage in “generosity”, we are engaging in giving without restraint; this is the type of giving where you give not out of obligation and duty, but out of selflessness (since there are no restrictions and you’re putting the needs/desires of others before your own). In other words, generosity is an act of selflessness. But where does “selflessness” come from?
Selflessness is rooted in “God’s love” (the “agape” kind mentioned in the Bible); as I mentioned previously, this is shown by Him sending His Son to die for our sins. This was clearly a selfless act, and one of “perfect” love (God is a “perfect” being, which means that He lacks no “good” attributes, and all of His attributes are “complete”. This also means that everything He feels and does is perfect, including His acts of love), proving that the highest standard of love produces selflessness (the piece of scripture which explains this best is John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”)
So since generosity comes from being selfless and being selfless comes from God’s love, being generous is spreading God’s love to others; when we do that, we are fulfilling God’s Greatest Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” by “loving our neighbor as ourselves” (Matthew 22: 37-39). Proverbs 19:17 is another good piece of Scripture which confirms this: “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”
Therefore, if we want to obey God, we must practice generosity.
Generosity earns us Heavenly Rewards. When Jesus returns, there will be a “judgment” on all of humanity, both living and dead (Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:9-10, Revelation 20:11-12); this is not a judgment on “faith” or “salvation”, but on “works” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15), for unbelievers will be judged for their sins and believers for their good deeds (Some believe that these judgments are separate, while others believe that all will be judged at the same time. I’m not endorsing any particular view, but it is important to note that believers will be judged differently from unbelievers.). Since generosity is obviously a “good deed”, we should expect that any generous work we do during our lives will be seen as a strong “foundation of gold, silver, and precious stones” (1 Corinthians 3:12), which will result in a reward from God.
(Although I believe that pleasing God should be the primary reason we practice generosity, there’s nothing wrong with desiring the rewards we will receive from doing so. Jesus even tells us to “lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:20)”, so this desire must be okay if God vindicates it.)
Generosity Makes Us Healthy and Gives Us Happiness. God has revealed Himself to humanity in two ways, one which is called “General Revelation”. This type of revelation is God’s way of “broadly” revealing Himself to humanity, where He uses nature (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20) and the human soul/body (Romans 1:19-20). In other words, this is how God presents Himself to us without using the Bible (this, of course, is less powerful from the other type of revelation: Special Revelation, where He reveals Himself through Scripture. This is the “stronger” type because it gives us knowledge of salvation and how to obtain it. General Revelation, at best, gives us “hints” of God).
One example of this type of revelation is the fact that God designed our human bodies and souls to benefit from being generous: not only does Scripture say that God commands us to “love our neighbor as ourselves” (in this case, by being generous), but our bodies also confirm this fact by making us feel “good” when we do so.
Instead of listing any of the health benefits here, I’ll give you some web articles which explain this phenomenon more thoroughly (I picked these 5 randomly. Obviously, there are many of these articles online):
Be generous: It's a simple way to stay healthier - http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/sc-hlth-0812-joy-of-giving-20150806-story.html
7 Science-Backed Reasons Why Generosity Is Good For Your Health - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/01/generosity-health_n_4323727.html
Want to Be Happy? Stop Being So Cheap! - https://newrepublic.com/article/119477/science-generosity-why-giving-makes-you-happy
4 Health Benefits of Being Generous - http://www.health.com/stress/giving-tuesday-health-benefits-of-generosity
Want to do something good for your health? Try being generous. - https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/01/01/want-to-do-something-good-for-your-health-try-being-generous/?utm_term=.323117f6ed7d
Although “true” happiness comes not from being generous, we mustn’t ignore the fact that God has designed our bodies to benefit and receive pleasure from it. This is also the way in which our bodies give testimony that God believes generosity is good and that He desires we practice it.
I named this article “The Benefits of Giving Yourself” instead of “The Benefits of Generosity” because I wanted to deconstruct the word “generosity” in order to show that when we live generously towards others, we are “giving ourselves” to them, since we are being selfless and are considering the needs of others before our own (it was also a more creative title and I like creative titles). This is why God was practicing generosity when He gave up His Son, and just as God “gave Himself” to the world, we Christians must “give ourselves” to others. We should also be encouraged to live generously, since by doing so we obey God’s greatest commandment, lay “treasures” in heaven, and even achieve some physical benefits.
So, don’t be stingy with your life, but show the world the love that God has for it by “giving yourself”, just as He “gave Himself” to us.