Three Reasons Generosity Matters

In 1993, my 9th grade algebra teacher said something like: You’ll use algebra constantly for the rest of your life. I’d like to say that I recently completed an unbroken streak of 35 years of having never used algebra… except for this illustration. 😉

Now, I know that math gets used constantly and I’ve likely used algebra on some level of reasoning without knowing it. Why? Because numbers are everywhere. They are concrete facts and reveal the truth. The “numbers” that gain the most attention for us have to do with money. How we use money is a signal about what we value. On a spiritual level, how we use money is a signal about our faith and a tool for to increase our faithfulness.

In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, the apostle Paul wrote to the church about why generosity matters so much. There is much for us to learn along side of the Corinthians. Here are three ideas and three applications.

1. My difficulties remind me to contribute to God’s work. Paul highlighted the life and generosity of the church in Macedonia. Specifically, he reminded the Corinthians that the persecution, poverty, and pain that the Macedonians endured resulted in overwhelming generosity for the needs of others. We should learn to use our pain or our pain will use us. By focusing on Jesus’ work in the world, we will push past the detrimental narcissism that pain wants to birth within our souls. Our temporary problems should point us toward the eternal needs that drive the mission of the church.

2. My abundance is the supply for the church’s mission. If you think you do not have abundance, you are wrong. Anyone reading this has access to the Internet and you likely have clean water and a place to live. It puts you miles ahead of many in the world that have none of these. In 2 Corinthians 8:6, Paul encouraged the church to complete their “act of grace;” meaning their generous gift. Later in the passage, Paul urged the believers to make the supply for the church’s mission so that everyone could benefit. We should use what we have to help others.

But I want you to see that he is not just referring to the abundance of an individual. He is speaking to the church. They, as a community of Christians, had abundance. A church budget is a declaration of priorities. What does your church budget say about what your church values? Care is costly. Mission work requires resources. Ministry is non-stop in its neediness. But it’s worthwhile because it involves the redemption of people.

3. Our Lord called us to radical generosity. Nowhere in the Bible will you find Jesus declare, “Thou shalt be generous with thy bank account.” It is not stated that way. But look at the life of Jesus and you’ll never deny that generosity is the standard. The Incarnation was God’s radical plan for our radical need. In 2 Corinthians 9:15, Paul ended his teaching to the church about generosity with a literary shout of gratitude not to them but to God.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Christ’s poverty is not an abstract idea. It was the antidote to sin’s venomous sting. The revolutionary life of Jesus is not to be sterilized to a manageable version for us to emulate. If you want to live like Jesus then you have to give your life away. Giving will focus your life on God’s redemptive mission. This is where the spiritual algebra comes back into play.

Jesus + anything = nothing

Jesus + nothing = everything*

So what should we do with a passage that teaches revolutionary generosity?

  • As a church… move from being a catering organization to being an equipping force for God’s mission.
  • As a believer… give yourself first to Christ and your money will follow thereafter.
  • As a giving believer… focus on Gospel causes and your comfort will no longer matter.

Our lives should never be the dead-end of the God’s mission. We follow a radical Messiah who has a revolutionary message for an unredeemed world. Let’s give ourselves fully into His hands.


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* The phrasing of “Jesus + Nothing = Everything” was popularized by Tullian Tchividjian in his book from Crossway Publishers using the phrase as the title

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Philip Nation

Philip Nation

serve as the Director of Advancement and Global Impact Churches with the Baptist World Alliance and frequently speak at churches and conferences. I earned a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2010-2012, I was the national spokesperson for the Back to Church Sunday campaign from Outreach. Over the years, I’ve served as a pastor, minister of education, and a church planter. My latest published work is the video-based Bible study Pursuing Holiness: Applications from James. In 2016, I published Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out with Moody Publishers. I’ve coauthored two other books: Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. I was also the general editor of The Mission of God Study Bible. Along the way, I have written the small-group studies Storm Shelter: Psalms of God’s Embrace, Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living and Live in the Word, plus contributed to The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Lifetime.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thank you Ed for sharing your insights into the Church Growth Movement. I have my reservations with Church Growth models because it has done more damage than good in the Body of Christ. Over the years, western churches are more focused on results, formulas and processes with little or no emphasis on membership and church discipline. Pastors and vocational leaders are burnt out because they're overworked. I do believe that the Church Growth model is a catalyst to two destructive groups: The New Apostolic Reformation and the Emerging Church. Both groups overlap and have a very loose definition. They're both focus on contemporary worship, expansion of church brand (franchising), and mobilizing volunteering members as 'leaders' to grow their ministry. Little focus on biblical study, apologetics and genuine missional work with no agenda besides preaching of the gospel.
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