ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS)—The book of Acts tells about the first Christian believers. The early church’s daily lives were simple; their spiritual lives were vibrant. Far from being independent isolationists who only met once a week, they lived their lives together. They were generous people who sought to meet needs and make an impact in the world by giving their time, talent, and treasure to ensure the message about Jesus went far and wide.
To get the most from this study, read Acts 2; 2 Corinthians 9 and answer the questions at the end of this article.
They Are Open-Hearted with Their Time (vv. 44, 46)
There’s a character quality that is compelling with Christians: generosity. Why? Because God is generous: He gave His very best for us—His Son (John 3:16); Christians sought to mirror the Maker.
Because of God’s generosity, the early church demonstrated a generous life; generosity invaded their homes and hearts. The early church was born at Pentecost, where a very real sense of love and purity—led by the Holy Spirit—penetrated their character and community.
To live a life of generous love, it took commitment to one another and the Christian cause. For the sake of unity in Jesus, the early church was being open-hearted and open handed.
Remember this: not every gift of generosity is financial; generosity involves time and talents as well. As Warren Wiersbe stated, “Giving is not something we do, but something we are.”
Jesus is our ultimate example of generosity: He always gave, ultimately—His life. Jesus was generous with His time to others because He began by being generous in His time with His Father in prayer. Likewise, through generous prayer, we are able sharpen our axe before chopping-day begins.
In short, Jesus said no at times, so He could say yes. Jesus did not respond to every need (see Mark 1). This is because Jesus knew the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important.
They Are Open-Minded with Their Talent (vv. 42, 44b, 47)
The Apostles were both teaching “doctrine” and doing “signs and wonders” in the early church (vv. 42- 43); they were giving of themselves to Christ and community. Christians were selling possessions to meet needs of others, providing hospitality and encouragement.
In short, the early church was pooling together talents, time, and treasures to further the gospel. We see this truth played out in 1 Corinthians 12, where different kinds of spiritual gifts were given to build up the body of Christ, impacting the world with the good news.
The church is like the human body: each part is necessary; there are no useless organs. One reason there is a malfunction with gifts within the body is that some gifts are put on a pedestal, and others are not. But this is not a biblical practice.
We must remember: every gift is important in demonstrating a generous life in the Body of Christ.
They Are Open-Handed with Their Treasure (v. 45)
Acts 2: 45, shows that the early church’s giving was voluntary, not compulsory. The church is not about communism (taking from others so I may have), but common-ism (giving to others from what I have).
But don’t think money is a non-subject in the Bible; it is very important. It is the subject over half of Jesus’ parables. Of the twenty-nine parables, sixteen deal with a person’s relationship with money.
Additionally, one out of every six verses in Matthew, Mark, and Luke deal with the topic of money. In fact, one in every seven verses in the New Testament deal with money.
Compared to five-hundred verses on prayer, there are over two-thousand on money.
You get the point: Money—and our use and misuse of it—is important.
As Martin Luther said, “There are three conversion a person needs to experience: head, heart, and pocketbook. And the last is the hardest.” Or as Charles Spurgeon stated, “With some (Christians) the last part of their nature that ever gets sanctified is their pockets.”
Theology of Giving
Using the letter of 2 Corinthians 9:6-9, Paul provides a theology of giving.
- Give intentionally (v. 7).
- One is to give as “he purposes in his heart.”
- This truth carries the idea of predetermination, not acting with impulse, but with purpose.
- Give joyfully (v. 7)
- The idea is not to give with grief, sorrow or reluctance.
- We should be happy to give.
- Give proportionally.
- Sow bountifully, reap bountifully (v. 6).
- Their giving was in proportion to what they had.
- How much? It’s up to you, a matter of the heart.
- One man, industrialist R.G. LeTourneau, gave 90 percent of his income, and lived on 10 percent.
- Give expectantly (vv. 6, 8)
- Give like a farmer: expect to see a return.
- Jesus said, “Give and it will be given to you…” (Luke 6:38).
- Additionally, many texts show that we are to give expectantly (Proverbs 11:25, Proverbs 22:9, Proverbs 3:9, etc.)
- Bottom line: God’s generous traits are seen through those who are generous to others.
- And remember: God always out-gives you; the more you give, the more God gives through you.
Discuss the various ways God demonstrates His generosity. Here are a few to consider. Look up the verses to discuss.
- Creation (Genesis 1)
- Life with others community and family (Genesis 1-2)
- Salvation (Romans 6:23)
- Jesus (John 3:16)
What more can you think of?
The Gallup Polls states that born-again adults remain the most generous givers in the country. Why is it important for the church to be a generous group? How would you define generous giving? What is crowding your time, keeping you from living an important, generous life? Think about these characteristics listed as living generously. Do you agree?
- We have more money to give than we think
- Time is as valuable as money
- It’s impossible to be generous without being in a place of gratitude
- Small gestures (of generosity) make a big impact
- Giving people the benefit of the doubt is another form of generosity. Put another way, kindness and compassion are generous.
Psychologist Karl Menninger stated, “Generous people are rarely mentally ill.” And though many of the people Christians attempt to reach are not mentally ill, what does a statement like this tell us about living a life of generosity, particularly for Christians? Does a generous life help keep a peaceful mind? Do you think part of generous living is presenting the gospel generously to others? If so, spend some generous prayer for those in need.