Generosity is a key part of Christian discipleship and as we can see from this psalm, generosity is also a key feature of God’s character. As I said in the Friday Message last week, Emma and I have been blown away by the welcome we’ve received and that is, in no small part, due to the generosity of the church family here at the Belfrey.
The generosity I speak of isn’t purely in financial terms - although we were incredibly grateful for the hamper we received! - but there’s also been a generosity of spirit. People have gone out of their way to welcome us and to make us feel at home, whether that’s been by coming and having a chat before or after a Sunday service or inviting us over for dinner, or encouraging us as we begin our time in York - the kindness shown has been wonderful to both see and receive! As well as generously welcoming newcomers, it is also important to be generous in terms of our time and talents and how we use them to invest in others, all of which take courage in differing ways.
This is another area where Emma and I have been incredibly blessed. Shortly after I came to faith, I was very fortunate to have a vicar who spent time with me, invested in me and (without me quite realising it!) discipled me. He helped me to grow in my faith and develop into a more mature follower of Christ by spending a lot of time with me as I shadowed him and learnt from him. In doing so, he took risks as he encouraged me to do things I wouldn’t have thought possible - like launch and lead a ministry only a month after I had become a Christian! This took not only bravery, but generosity, both in terms of his time and in a willingness to let me try something which I was passionate about, knowing full-well I had his support and backing if things hadn’t gone the way he hoped.
Emma, too, has been really blessed in this respect in her own ministry with young people, particularly during her time in York before we went down to Cambridge. Emma arrived at that church as a part-time youth worker covering maternity and left as a full-time children, youth and family worker, despite her having no previous professional experience. The church invested in her with words, prayer, support and even financially, as they helped her finance her qualification in youth work. The generosity on display in that church was a real sign that they not only valued Emma but that they were courageously seeking to model the generosity of God as well.
Living generously isn’t only about building up and encouraging those who are already part of the Church, however, as Paul says in Romans 12:20-21;
‘Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.’
Paul is encouraging us to treat those who we disagree with well and not in the way the world would encourage us to treat them with, at worst, revenge, or at the very least by un-friending them on Facebook! Jesus encourages us to love our enemies, do good to those who harm us, and be generous in love towards those who expect and maybe even ‘deserve’ our contempt - because that’s how we live out the Kingdom of God. This is how conversations start about grace, forgiveness and salvation, in fact, Jesus talks about the knock on effects of generosity in Mark 4 as He talks about the Kingdom of God:
‘24 “Listen carefully to what I am saying—and be wary of the shrewd advice that tells you how to get ahead in the world on your own. Giving, not getting, is the way. 25Generosity begets generosity. Stinginess impoverishes.” 26Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man 27who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. 28The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. 29When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!’
Living our lives in the way Jesus modelled ultimately means, among many other things, being generous. Generosity can lead to the planting of spiritual seeds - some of these seeds will have a visible and quick growth; others may well be ‘harvested’ many years down the line without our knowledge; but what Jesus promises with this description of what the Kingdom of God is like, is that by living generously and by seeking to be Christ-like in our actions, we are spreading the seed of the Kingdom and helping those who don’t yet know Jesus to step closer and closer into a relationship with Him.
So my prayer and challenge is this; how can we be more generous to those we meet? How can we use our words and actions to build the Kingdom of God and share the generosity of Jesus with those around us? Who knows how the seeds we sow this week might bud and grow in the weeks, months and years to come…
Mike Perkins is the Curate at the Belfrey in York.