“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:11 ESV
A few days ago, I was driving home after a long day. Purple and pink streaks were strewn across the sky, framing the mountains around me while splashes of color reflected across the icy snow. I was amazed at the artistry on display, making the long drive go by faster, as I thanked God for His beautiful sky. The next morning, John Eldredge, in his Restoration Journal, asked the question, “Can you name in your life where your heart feels awakened because of Jesus’ extravagant generosity?” This led me to a few questions of my own. Am I aware of God’s generosity? Do I respond in a way that shows I believe He’s generous to me? Am I generous to others?
God’s generosity is displayed throughout His creation. He paints the sky differently each sunrise and sunset. He creates the romantic pink peony, the whimsical daisy, and the symmetrical sunflower. He designed each snowflake to be unique, only noticeable under a microscope. Even the sand throughout out the world is different. When my children were younger, my mom would bring jars of sand from her travels, from the fine white sand of Florida beaches to coarse tawny sand found in Maine. Even our foods don’t taste one note: we have salty olives, tangy goat cheese, and sweet oranges. His generosity can be found everywhere if we are willing to pay attention.
The Garden of Eden was God’s generosity perfectly displayed. Adam and Eve wanted for nothing, living in a perfect climate. The Bible says that they could eat of every tree and had dominion overall, except one tree. Figs, plums, bananas, and every kind of berry were available for their choosing. And every day they had the opportunity to interact with all of God’s creation. But Satan made them question God’s generosity and focus on the thing they couldn’t have, which led to the fall. It is easy to look at them and see the error of their ways, but like Adam and Eve, I can fall into that same trap. All too often, I get focused on what I don’t have. I get caught up with the small bank balances, the vacations that didn’t happen, and the opportunities that didn’t come my way. This leads to discontent and believing that God is not generous to me.
When I realize I feel discontent, I look for truth in scripture. Paul says in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” My God is faithful to provide. Maybe I didn’t get the vacation I had hoped for, but I did get some time exploring God’s creation in local forest preserves near me. He’s blessed me abundantly with friends and family. Whatever I need is available to me. But along with God’s generosity, I find another truth: God expects me to be generous. We all know about the principle of reaping what you sow. This principle is followed by in 2 Corinthians 9:7 with the statement, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” A few months ago, one of my pastors preached about the Greek word “hilaros” which means “cheerful.” This is the same word that hilarious comes from. We are supposed to be over the top cheerful givers! Which leads to my last question: am I generous to others?
Last year, an acquaintance of mine died unexpectedly. This is someone who I greeted with a smile but looked for ways to end the conversation quickly. I said the right words but didn’t demonstrate real interest. I was never generous with my time, compassion, or investment in this person’s life. And all this person ever wanted was to feel connected with me because of a distant familial relationship. This death hit me hard and made me realize that I was generous to people I loved but not always to those who were on the fringes of my life. By no means am I saying that I need to be friends with everyone or insert myself into everyone’s lives. But if someone is trying to engage me in a conversation, I should be generous with my time and be fully present. Every time I have gone back to Wisconsin over the last ten years, it would have taken just a few moments each visit to inquire about their life, their health, and their blessings. Instead, I plastered a fake smile on my face while I was thinking about someone else I wanted to connect with. I was genuinely sorrowful for how I had treated that person and repented.
This repentance leads me to God’s generosity again. He is generous in his willingness to forgive me of times when I am less than kind. The Bible records that his mercies are new every day. However, this doesn’t give me the right to continue to be less than generous with others. Instead, it gives me the freedom to come to total repentance and ask God to help me be more generous.
I was hoping to catch a picture of the beautiful colors as they painted the sky, but the sunset had disappeared by the time I go home. That’s how sunsets work, they last for a few amazing moments and then disappear and, all too often, I am too busy to notice them. Like a sunset, generosity only takes a few minutes. But all too often, I miss the opportunities to be generous. In this upcoming year, I am choosing to make more time for sunsets and generosity.