It’s hard to resist a good story. If a story can capture your imagination, it can control your whole life. As Christians, we’re called to live out of the greatest story ever told—the story of divine generosity. It’s a vast and sprawling ancient narrative that is, nevertheless, not over yet. Here’s how it goes:
From all eternity God not only has existed, but he has lived in perfect fullness, joy and delight. At some point the eternal God then did the unfathomable: He created everything out of nothing—as a gift. Whether one thinks of the sand or the stars, the trees or the people, God needs nothing, for, “he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25).
As the Creator, God is the King and owner of all things. God himself is the artist of this diverse, beautiful, and dynamic world, so this world should reflect the brilliance and contentment of its Creator. But we have rejected God’s love and his lordship. And this has resulted in death and disaster. We have turned from the One to whom we belong. The claim that “The earth is the Lord’s” (Psalm 24:1) has come under attack. It has been compromised and contested in as much as God’s earthly kingdom has been plundered and usurped. Rejecting God’s great generosity and his rule over their lives, Adam and Eve risked and lost everything when they reached out to take the one thing withheld for their good. As a result of this rebellion the great song of creation turned into a deafening moan. This rejection of God’s kingship caused a rupture in the entire cosmos, for, if you could hear it, even the rocks and the trees began to cry out against this fissure between the Creator and his creation.
What could be done?
God could have decided simply to crush his creation as a frustrated potter crushes a newly formed jar that is disappointing, choosing to start over from scratch. But he took another way. God chose to reclaim all by giving all away.
The Creator of all things, including humanity, comes. He comes himself, entering the chaos, the brokenness, the poverty, and the shame. He comes quietly, humbly, truly. And when he comes, he does the scandalous, for God becomes a human being. And in the end this man—Jesus, the promised Messiah and King—suffers, dies, rises, and ascends. In this we learn what is called the “gospel,” the good news of God. Invested by God with all power and authority for the revelation of his rule, Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God in what he laid down at the cross. “[T]he Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Jesus’ message of the kingdom is, therefore, the proclamation that God’s reign has come through the gift of God himself.
Thus, the God who created a good and perfect world, but whose world turned from him, has brought restoration through gift. The Father loved the world and gave the Son, and the Father and the Son pour out the gift of the Spirit into the hearts of humanity, bringing about praise, hope, and new creation. Those united to the Son by the Spirit then find their lives caught up with the glorious gift of God’s coming Kingdom.
This is the story of God’s generosity. This is the drama that drives us to give.
And the story continues—it’s this drama in which we live, with each of us having a part to play. The good news is not only that God has made us to be recipients of his grace but also participants in the movement of his divine generosity. Therefore, even as we anticipate what God promised to do in the future we see and participate in His Kingdom work in the present.
In Christ we discover again the gift of belonging to God. Living in God’s gifts we are free to give ourselves. Those captured by this story enjoy the inexhaustible grace of God. The people who understand and live in this forgiveness and freedom find themselves also forgiving others and giving themselves, their resources, all they have for the sake of making known again the great King and his advancing kingdom. Those with this hope store up their treasures in heaven as they look forward to a better country—to a city with foundations that cannot be shaken. In the present, we discover the blessing of walking with the poor, associating with the lowly, weeping with those who weep and rejoicing with those who rejoice. We celebrate together the gifts of the rich man and his fortune and the widow with her mite. This is a God who brings life out of death, hope out of despair, strength out of weakness. The paradoxes of God also mark his people. Those who lose experience victory, those who give find true wealth. And so the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ now come to reshape this new life of faith, hope, and love—a life that is best lived not in isolation but as a community. By placing the practice of giving within this larger drama of redemption, we are not only challenged to “give more,” but we are encouraged to step into the powerful movement of God’s great gifts to the world.
This retelling of the biblical story of generosity is adapted from Kelly Kapic with Justin Borger, God So Loved He Gave: Entering the Movement of Divine Generosity (Zondervan, 2010)