Radical Generosity AND Beautiful Humility1
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need …
- from 1 John 3:16-17
John won’t let his readers stay abstract in their application of this idea. He grabs our hands and leads us directly to the very glittering things that steer our hearts.
Laying down your life will have implications for your resources. There’s no way around it. You can’t loosen your grip on your life without also loosening your grip on your material possessions. Few of us receive a divine call to intentional poverty, but each of has been directed by God to be generous with what he’s entrusted to us.
Note that John doesn’t tell his readers to give their money to him or to his church. He doesn’t actually advocate (at this point) for any particular activity. Instead, he’s linking this posture of “lay down our lives for our brothers and sister” with our “material possessions” and our community, which might include “a brother or sister in need.” He wants to make sure that we don’t just serve (although serving is wonderful) and don’t just pray (though prayer is awesome) but that we also apply this spirit of sacrifice to our pockets. Being generous is beautiful.
John knows that his community, like ours, has people from throughout the economic spectrum. Some have material possessions and others are in need. Everyone has something to offer to the community: spiritual gifts, passion, encouragement, insight. Some also have cash.
As a church community, we are blessed to have some in our midst who have material possessions and others who are in need. Our church is full of stories of some laying down their material possessions to help, encourage, support, and provide for their brothers and sisters. Talking about money makes us feel shy – not guilty – because the Lord has inspired in our very midst both radical generosity to give and beautiful humility to receive … we don’t want people to think we’re boasting.
But if we’ll boast, we’ll boast in Jesus Christ. He makes it possible for us to both give and receive. We can receive from our brothers and sisters without sacrificing our dignity because we’ve already received so much from Christ. And Jesus makes us so secure in him through his sacrifice for us that we don’t need to prove ourselves with expensive status symbols or defend ourselves with aggressive financial instruments; instead, we can be free to share whatever abundance we have with those in need. It is Jesus who makes all this possible.
Isn’t he wonderful?