by Matthew Henson
How is your GQ? – Your “generosity quotient”? Paul wrote this letter nearly 30 years after Easter Sunday, Jesus’ resurrection and the birth of the Christian Church. The Jerusalem Church, the Mother Church of Christianity had fallen into deep poverty and famine had swept the region. An emergency appeal was sent out to the young churches in the Mediterranean area. The largest and wealthiest of those churches, the Corinthians, tended to be the most self-centered. Paul chides them a bit by reminding them of the poor, small Macedonian church in Philippi, who sent a generous offering. Anticipating the Corinthian grousing, Paul likes to remind them that everything they have received comes from a generous God, who simply longs for his people to practice cheerful giving. God’s desire is to see his people imitate godly generosity.
Generous people look for opportunities to give without keeping account of their generosity. The poor Philippian congregation loved to give. Read the four short chapters of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is a thank you note for a church that sent a care package to Paul while he was in prison. Paul has no need to correct this small congregation, because they have captured the essence of following Christ. The GQ is healthy. They learned the art of joyful giving.
I believe generosity flows from a heart of thanksgiving. I first became acquainted with this during my junior year in college as I worked at a local restaurant. Waiting on tables only for tips, we were most interested in doing everything we could to spark an attitude of gratitude. What I witnessed was enlightening. Generous people (GP) did not all look the same, but they shared similar characteristics. Generous people tended to be less demanding. They overlooked the insignificant and looked for the positive. GP were appreciative and so very thoughtful. GP seemed as interested in my well being as in being served. When a local Christian celebrity dined with us on occasion I soon learned that in spite of his outspoken witness, the wait staff knew him as stingy, demanding, and thoughtless. His GQ nullified his witness with those non-Christians.
Jo loved our church and everyone in that little congregation knew her to be a prayer warrior. When her health declined I made a trip to visit in her modest home. Her dining table, covered by prescription bottles, gave a stark picture of her health. We enjoyed a lively conversation and some serious prayer. As I rose to leave she handed me a check for $25.00 to put in our offering. I knew her monthly income was a grand total of $250, the math made sense. This was Jo’s tithe.
“But Jo!” I countered, “the Church doesn’t need this and you can certainly use it; we’re doing okay.”
Jo looked at me with piercing eyes and pushed back, “Don’t try to steal my blessing. God has given much to me and it is my joy to return what is His.” As I walked out of that house I felt humbled because I had been schooled by one of God’s GP.
Generous people respond out of an attitude of thanksgiving, believing that all we have belongs to God. When our small congregation needed to raise extra dollars for a project we challenged the church with the phrase, not equal giving but equal sacrifice. Mary lived on a fixed income and had no money to add to her regular tithe. After time in prayer she decided to forgo two of her daily luxuries, her afternoon soda and her morning newspaper. “I can borrow my neighbor’s paper after he’s finished,” she told me, “and I really only need one soda a day, not two.” When I tried to dissuade her from this, she reminded me that giving was her privilege. I think this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote, “God loves a cheerful giver.” I love this translation of 1 Chronicles 29:14 – “But me – who am I, and who are these my people, that we should presume to be giving something to you? Everything comes from you; all we’re doing is giving back what we’ve been given from your generous hand.” How is your GQ?