Over the next three weeks, we’re going to take an in-depth look at three postures that I believe help us live a more peaceful, Jesus-filled life. At Exponential Orlando 2018, I heard Danielle Strickland, whom I respect and admire, talk about these postures and was so inspired to adopt this as a prayer and meditation in my own life. The first of the three postures is that of generosity.
What is generosity exactly?
Generosity = Noun. [jen-uh–ros-i-tee]:
1. readiness or liberality in giving.
2. freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character.
3. a generous act: We thanked him for his many generosities.
4. largeness or fullness; amplitude.
A few words stick out to me when I read these definitions. Words like “freedom,” “liberality,” and “fullness.” Could it be that when we are generous that we experience these qualities? I believe so!
Jesus is generous. Be like Him.
Jesus sets a fantastic example for us regarding generosity in Matthew 26. Think about the story of the woman with the expensive perfume–the alabaster jar. Scripture says:
6 Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper,7 a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. 8 And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? 9 For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” 10 But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me. 12 In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
First of all, let’s look at where Jesus is in verse 6. He is at the house of Simon, the leper. I repeat, in the house of a leper! I’ll bet the Pharisees are having a field day in their minds about what Jesus thought He was doing. I imagine the word “unclean” used in their speech quite a bit.
*Side note: Isn’t it interesting that Matthew writes “Simon the leper” instead of his full name? Matthew is making a point by defining Simon’s value through this title. Jesus sees not the leprosy of the flesh, but that of the heart. But that’s a different post for another day.
Jesus shows His generous nature just by being present in Simon’s home. Perhaps this is the 2nd definition of generosity in use. Jesus is completely free from meanness or smallness of mind or character. Free!
Jesus And The Woman With The Very Expensive Ointment
It’s likely that many of you thought that I was going to speak of generosity in terms of giving to the poor. Our culture generally defines generosity in terms of monetary giving. I would argue, however, that generosity is a state of being or an attitude of the heart.
As Jesus is reclining at the table, a woman comes to Him with costly ointment. She pours it onto Jesus’ head. I’m sure the room fills with the aroma of this heartfelt gift. This woman is not simply pouring perfume on Jesus’ head. Rather, she is pouring herself out to Him. She pours out her obedience and love on Him. Ultimately, this act is her obedience to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. Then, of course, I love verse 13 where Jesus says:
Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.
Of course, we can read the response from the disciples. Jesus’ response stops them in their tracks. Jesus says, “For she has done a beautiful thing to me.” But wait! What about the poor? What about the needy? What we learn from Jesus here is just as generosity is a state of the heart and not monetary value, poverty can also be a state of the heart. The richest of people can have poverty of the heart, and the poorest of poor can have the “largeness or fullness” of the heart (see definition 4).
Open Heart, Open Hands
Right now, wherever you are, take a moment and look at the palms of your hands. (It’s ok. Surrender to the exercise). Now, clench your fists really tightly. Close your eyes a minute and feel what happens to the rest of your body. What we can learn here is how the body is so interconnected (nerves, muscles, tendons, ligaments). As I fiercely close my hands, there is a chain reaction. My wrists get tight. My forearms all the way up through my shoulders tense up. Also notice that if you hold this for a longer period of time, you may feel numbness in your fingers or hands, because you are cutting off blood supply. By living in this state of closed hands and, ultimately, closed hearts, we do damage to our minds and our bodies. This is not what we were created for!
Now, open your hands. Feel the rush of blood to your fingertips. Doesn’t that feel much better? Yes! It does! As you open your hands, feel the muscles relax, the tension release. This relaxed state is that for which you were created. So how can you achieve this state without having generosity? The simple answer is that you can’t. Unless you approach yourself and others with generosity, you will not live in the freedom and liberty Jesus created for you.
What will you choose?
Generosity is not simply throwing your money at a problem. It is an investment of self. Generosity comes from an overflow of the wonder of the grace we have through Jesus Christ. My encouragement to you is that you would wake up each day and choose the freedom that comes from a generous heart. Choose to be generous in how you love. Be generous in how you approach people. Liberally give out smiles instead of scowls. Choose to be patient when things take longer than you want. This, my friends, will lead to greater fullness in your lives, and you will look a lot more like Jesus.