This is our ninth lesson in our new series entitled “21 Qualities for Christians in the Bible.” We must remember our goal is to aid in our growth as Christians and help to develop servant leadership traits inspired by men and women of Scripture. The apostle Peter tells us in 2 Peter 3:18, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Peter also tells us to “add” to our faith in 2 Peter 1:5-11, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these things.” These are just a few of the Scriptures that teach Christians to grow and mature as Children of God. These things aren’t done to make the Christian better “than” those around them but better “for” those around them. As Christians are to be as Jesus says in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
You see, the Bible is not only the greatest book every written, it is the greatest leadership book ever written. Everything we could ever want to learn about leadership – vision, purpose, thinking strategy, communication, attitude, encouragement, mentoring, follow-through – it’s all there. We must be open to what God wants to teach us. We learn from the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 55:11 concerning God, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” Three things we must recognize in this text, (1) God’s Word always fulfills His purpose. (2) His Word does not return to Him void; (3) It accomplishes what He pleases and prospers in what He sent it for.
So, for Our lesson today we examine: Generosity: Your Candle Loses Nothing When It Lights Another.
True generosity communicates that the Christian cares about the well-being of others and has unselfish motives. When Christians do this a willingness to give themselves can be seen. You see, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Generosity is a concrete demonstration of how much the Christian cares.
Some people are more naturally generous than others. But anyone can develop greater generosity. The first step is a change in perspective. Generous Christians are content. They are not preoccupied with obtaining or hoarding wealth. Instead, they are happy and grateful for what they have. They see money as a gift, and as a result they hold on to it loosely.
Generous Christians always vale others more than possessions. They put others first. They also see money for what it is: a resource or tool. They understand that its value comes from its ability to advance a greater mission. As a result, they are not mastered by money, but rather use it to serve others and the vision the Lord has given them in service.
The best way to become more generous is to become consistent in the practice of generosity. Make it a habit. The amount given is not as important as the act of giving. Find ways to be generous every day, and you will benefit as a Christian. And don’t limit your generosity to money. Offer your time, knowledge, and resources as well. Writer John Bunyan said, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Christians must live at a higher level by being generous. Giving is truly the highest level of living. We learn from the apostle Paul in Acts 20:35, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
Today we are going to learn generosity from a man named Boaz. In the book of Ruth we get to see his example of willingly giving. Let’s read Ruth 2:1-18, “There was a relative of Naomi's husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz. 2 So Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, "Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor." And she said to her, "Go, my daughter." 3 Then she left, and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. 4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to the reapers, "The LORD be with you!" And they answered him, "The LORD bless you!" 5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, "Whose young woman is this?" 6 So the servant who was in charge of the reapers answered and said, "It is the young Moabite woman who came back with Naomi from the country of Moab. 7 "And she said, 'Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.' So she came and has continued from morning until now, though she rested a little in the house." 8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, "You will listen, my daughter, will you not? Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. 9 "Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them. Have I not commanded the young men not to touch you? And when you are thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from what the young men have drawn." 10 So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, "Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?" 11 And Boaz answered and said to her, "It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. 12 "The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge." 13 Then she said, "Let me find favor in your sight, my lord; for you have comforted me, and have spoken kindly to your maidservant, though I am not like one of your maidservants." 14 Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, "Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar." So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back. 15 And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 "Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her." 17 So she gleaned in the field until evening, and beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. 18 Then she took it up and went into the city, and her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. So she brought out and gave to her what she had kept back after she had been satisfied.”
From our text it is easy to see why Boaz was wealthy, it was simply because of his generosity. If you noticed His first words to the reapers were, “The Lord be with you!” Is there anything better to pray for for someone else than the Lord being with them? This just shows the desire of Boaz for those who worked in his fields the very best! This is something we all need to pray for for others! So, where did Boaz get this disposition? It is possible he got it when he took heed of the instructions from God concerning harvesting found in Leviticus 23:22, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the LORD your God.'" As we read through our text we see Boaz instill in the reapers the disposition of generosity. Is that what we do when we work with others?
Another aspect we are able to see from our text concerning Boaz is that he recognized the value of Ruth in that she was very generous, giving herself completely to her mother-in-law. It occurs to me that this generous trait requires a heart that is looking out for others who are generous as well. The old phrase, “It takes one to know one” comes to mind. Just think how much can be accomplished when two generous people work together. Their first thought is about others not themselves. They complement each other’s efforts of generosity. For Ruth, Boaz’s generosity brought comfort to Ruth. And like he prayed the Lord be with the reapers he prayed the Lord repay the work that Ruth had done for her mother-in-law and others and give her a full reward! The generous attitude of Boaz is one greatly needed today in our society. Far too often we find folks who are only concerned about their own well-being. When we are taught by the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Boaz is truly an example of one who followed this principle, for he gave willingly.
Our next example of generosity comes from the Book of Acts. In this text we are going to read two examples of generosity that stem from the heart. The apostle Paul states in Ephesians 6:6, “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;” This is where all things are to begin, the heart. Our first example from the Book of Acts is found in Acts 4:32-37. Here we learn from a man named Barnabas, “Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. 36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.”
It is interesting to note from this text, the multitude shard a very generous disposition. They shared what they had with others. And Luke points out for us Barnabas. If you noticed it was the apostles that called him Barnabas. The name means “Son of Encouragement”. Barnabas was one who gave from the heart. He didn’t do it for fame or fortune. He did it because he loved his fellow man, especially his Christian brethren. And as we learned from Boaz, Barnabas understood Paul’s teaching in Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” As we read on through the book of Acts we get to see more of the generosity of Barnabas many times over. He is quite the example of generosity. He made a name for himself in a positive way because of his selfless generosity.
If you remember, we said we were going to learn from two examples of generosity in the Book of Acts. The second story is really a negative example of generosity. The generosity that is done in Acts 5:1-11 has an impure heart attached to it. That means it was done for the wrong reasons. Reasons opposite of what the apostle Paul taught in Ephesians 6:6, “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;” What we are about to read is of a married couple who conspired together, giving eyeservice and seeking to please men. We speak of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Like Barnabas, they too made a name for themselves. But their story ends because of their sad choice. Let’s read Acts 5:1-11, “But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. 3 But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 "While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. 7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" She said, "Yes, for so much." 9 Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.”
Ananias and Sapphira struggled in their hearts to be right with God, for they sought the praise of men for their deed! The apostle Peter confronted both of them separately on the issue. They were both given a chance to come clean and repent. Bu t they both chose not to. In the end, the Lord punished them to keep the church pure, in turn keeping the generous hearts of those who were of one heart pure! Had He let them get away with this disposition, it wouldn’t have been long before others sought to follow suit. Sadly, this is what many are doing today. They seek to please men instead of God. Their hearts are a mess. Their minds think like Ananias and Sapphira, seeking gain for themselves instead of helping others.
Now let’s turn our attention to yet more teaching on generosity. Now we turn to 2 Corinthians 8:1-15 where Paul teaches and encourages generosity, “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: 2 that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. 3 For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, 4 imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 5 And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. 7 But as you abound in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us--see that you abound in this grace also. 8 I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. 10 And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; 11 but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have. 12 For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; 14 but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack--that there may be equality. 15 As it is written, "He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack."”
In our text Paul encouraged the Corinthians using the example of the Macedonians generosity to motivate the Corinthians to do the same. Paul also reminds them of the generosity of our Lord Jesus Christ and what He gave up in order to make them rich with the richness of God not the riches of this world. He also sought to help them to see “equality.” This means with the Corinthians giving now will in turn give others the opportunity to possible help the Corinthians and others in the future! This too is something we need to consider! When we help someone now, we set them up to “pay it forward!” God has in a way set this manner in the home and family with parents and children. A child is brought into the family and is provided for and taken care of. And later in life, it will be the child’s turn to help the parents, perhaps provide for and care for. This requires a great deal of understanding of what it is to be grateful for what one is given. A willingness to always seek the betterment of others. More than likely we are going to need the help of others in the future. Generosity now will pay dividends later in life. However, that’s not why we are not generous. It just simply works out that way. It’s how God designed giving. It’s a measure in which we help each other. Matthew 7:12 comes to mind, “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
So, with these examples of generosity and so many others, let us examine our hearts and see if we “measure up” to the level of generosity truly desired in us by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! The level of generosity He Himself had when He was willing to go to the cross on our behalf. His generosity aided Him in going through all that He did on our behalf. All Christians need to be a generous people! So, for this series of lessons we have studied: Character, Charisma, Commitment, Communication, Competence, Courage, Discernment, Focus, and now Generosity. The Lord has provided for us time and time again these qualities modeled in the Bible for our growth.