Two passages from our reading in Acts got me thinking about living generously.
There’s the story of Joseph’s extravagant behavior which earned him the nickname “Encourager” (4:33-37), and then there is Paul’s quote from Jesus in 20:35: “Remember the words the Lord Jesus himself said, ‘There is more happiness in giving than in receiving'” (Good News).
Paul was addressing leaders of the church in Ephesus, a congregation he had poured his life into. It was the last time he would speak to them, of this they were all aware. The final word he offered them was from Jesus—There is more happiness in giving than in receiving.
Jesus had a lot to say about generosity. For instance, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” Luke 6:38.
“My father went into the room where his mother lay dying, and she seemed to be asleep or possibly in a coma. Since she was not conscious, my father did not linger. He kissed her on the forehead and turned to leave the room.
“As he opened the door, my grandmother stirred and he turned to look back at her. She lifted her finger to the sky and spoke the last sentence he would hear her say. ‘Son,’ she whispered to him, ‘I have only one regret—my economies.’”
And that was all she said.
The grandson explained that what she regretted was the times she had failed to be generous; the times she had said, “We can’t afford that!”; the times she had been practical and pinched pennies instead of spending them.
The speaker, now a grandfather himself, confessed that although his family had been mostly poor, “I have never regretted my extravagances thanks to my grandmother.”
Economies or extravagances. This is the basic choice of life. Will I look around and see scarcity or abundance?
One of the facts of life that Jesus points to is that “the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” He’s saying that if you give your life away in tiny, practical portions, what you will receive from life will seem several sizes too small. If you are extravagant in giving away your resources and yourself, your life will overflow with good things.
“The measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
It seems to me that Jesus is offering three suggestions for living a fulfilling life:
1. Be generous
2. Be generous
3. Be generous