God’s Generosity On Full Display in the Early Church

Taken from a Red Rock News Article (April 19, 2024)
Rev. Dona Johnson | Jan 21, 2024

For the early church depicted in Acts, the  resurrection of Jesus Christ is less a creedal  statement of individual faith than a creative force of  community formation and fellowship. There was  great passion and fervor being expressed by these  first believers in Jerusalem. They had witnessed a  never-before-seen resurrection. And out of their  faithful witness, God’s divine power and grace was  poured out on them and on all who embraced their  message.  

       This community was strangely different than  the communities that surrounded it. There was a  deep compassion and love among the people for  one another. Out of this newly formed community,  each person took on an “intense responsibility” for  the other. So much so, they sold their homes and  possessions to provide for others. They shared all  they had. Luke writes, “All the believers were one in  heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their  possessions was their own, but they shared  everything they had…the apostles continued to  testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus…those  who owned land or houses sold them, brought the  money from the sales…and it was distributed to  anyone who had need” (4:32-35).  

       Generosity is a mark of true discipleship and  more importantly it is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).  Christian’s who claim to be rich in love towards  Jesus but poor in outward signs of generosity may have other things they love more than God. It’s that  simple. The real tragedy is that there is often some  part of our lives, some part of our activities, some  part of our time and some part or our energy levels  that we, for the life of us cannot let go of. And this  holding on to our lives, holding on to our money  and possessions with such a tight grip is very much  a spiritual issue and a misreading of the gospel.  

       Over the centuries, the church has been  extremely generous in its capacity to respond to  humanitarian needs. In a 2022 survey, Barna, a  research group found that people give because of  who they are. It is foundational to their identity and  personhood. According to Pew Research Center, 45  percent of adults who pray daily and attend church  weekly volunteered in the past 7 days and 65  percent donated money to the poor and had a  higher rate of care and concern for others.  Christians who devote themselves to worship and  prayer create webs of mutual knowledge,  responsibility and Christ-like support like no other  influence. Although many of us in our culture today  suffer from a consumptive lifestyle, and tend to have a greater desire to protect our lifestyles than  grow in outward generosity towards others, those  who devote themselves to the gospel message  “love God and love one’s neighbor” live in the  overflow of God’s grace and thus, have an insatiable  need to give generously.  

       Luke gives us a beautiful snapshot of the  early church’s radical generosity on the heels of  Jesus’ resurrection and the Day of Pentecost.  Witnessing Jesus death and resurrection, they had a  fire in their belly after seeing first hand God’s  ultimate self-emptying and sacrifice. Jesus dies  bankrupt and bereft, stripped of all earthly  possessions (including clothes, Luke 23:34.) It is out  of this experience of complete surrender that God’s  generosity is on full display. Losing his life, Jesus  saves it. Forfeiting “the whole world” of self aggrandizing profit, Jesus gains the true wealth of  God’s kingdom. The crucified and risen Jesus thus  inspires his followers even today to find “new” life  not in accumulating more wealth for self-serving  needs but instead relinquishing all they are and own  into God’s hands to experience the true joy of  giving! How might God be calling you to grow in  generosity towards others? Amen.