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Finding the Joy of Generosity

Giving More than Money

Doing good and being rich in good works and being generous and ready to share aren’t just about money. Too often we limit generosity to writing checks. But wealth is more than money. We ought to be generous with our time and our efforts and our talents and our skills. Even if your bank account is empty, God has still enriched you in all kinds of ways so that you can be generous in all kinds of ways so that thanksgiving would be offered to God for all kinds of reasons. So be creative in how you think about what God has given you and how your life can be poured out for the sake of others.

Let me try to get very concrete here by focusing on your family. God reveals himself in everything, that everything is an invitation to know God. Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights, and every good and perfect gift is meant to lead us back to the Father of lights. The beams come down for our enjoyment, and our enjoyment is meant to lead us back to God. This means that your family—your spouse, your kids, your parents, and your siblings—are gifts that are meant to lead you to God. It also means that you are meant to be a gift from God to them. You are a made thing designed to make invisible attributes visible.

So try this: do you remember the baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3? Jesus comes out of the water, the Spirit descends like a dove, and the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). In this moment we catch a glimpse of the infinite and eternal life of the triune God. Fatherly delight, fatherly joy, fatherly pleasure. And because of the gospel, because we are united to Christ by faith, this joy includes us. God embraces us and delights in us in the same way that he does Jesus, because we have trusted in Jesus.

Now, my question is: Will my sons have categories for the glory of that gospel reality? Will there be personal, relational, and spiritual weight to that gospel truth? When they grow up and come to understand Matthew 3 and the Father’s delight in his Son, I want them to say, “I get it. I’ve seen my dad look at me that way. I have categories for fatherly pleasure that echo this gospel of grace. My dad was present for me. My dad spoke words of life and joy and love over me. He gave visible and tangible expressions of his pleasure. He called me his own. I have lived my life beneath the smile of a happy father, and if that fatherly joy is a faint echo of this eternal fatherly joy, then sign me up.” I want my wife to read Isaiah 62:5—“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you”—and say, “My husband still looks at me that way.” I want to give my family the gift of a true and glorious picture of what God is like. I want them to experience my joy in God as I delight in them. I want to be the smile of God to my children. I want to be the smile of God to my wife.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving home from work in a fog of exhaustion, and what keeps me from coming in the house and burdening my family with my frustrated, spent, and heavy presence is the knowledge that as I walk in the door, I will either tell the truth about fatherly delight and husbandly joy, or I will lie. I find that grace floods me in that moment, and I dance up the sidewalk and throw my sons in the air with a tickle fight and ask my wife how I can relieve her of burden. In other words, I enter my house eager to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share my time, my presence, and my affection.

Gladly Spend and Be Spent

Let me close this chapter by showing how these two dimensions—the enjoyment of God’s provision and generosity with God’s provision—can come together. In 2 Corinthians Paul expresses his plans to visit the Corinthians for the third time:

Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. —2 Corinthians 12:14–15

When you set your hope on God, and you enjoy what he richly provides, and you share what he richly provides, you are storing up treasure for yourself.

Do you see both elements? Spend and be spent—that’s generosity. Sacrifice, self-denial, pouring ourselves out as we seek to do good and be open-handed with our families and our friends and our neighbors. That’s Paul’s vision of parenting and Paul’s vision of ministry. But notice how he’s spending himself. All of his sacrifices are done “most gladly” because he’s also receiving the Corinthians as a gift. He doesn’t want their stuff; he wants them. Paul is receiving them as a gift from God, richly provided to him for his enjoyment. And in receiving them in that way, he is also giving them a gift, the gift of apostolic and fatherly gladness, which is an echo of God’s delight offered to us in the gospel.

And when you do this, when you set your hope on God, and you enjoy what he richly provides, and you share what he richly provides, you are storing up treasure for yourself. You save up and you gladly spend it. You store it up and you pour it out. This is the true life; this is the true foundation for the future, the true foundation of everlasting joy.

This article is adapted from Strangely Bright: Can You Love God and Enjoy This World? by Joe Rigney.

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