More Like Jesus: Gratitude (Part 4)
January 31, 2017
by Peter Amsterdam
More Like Jesus: Gratitude (Part 4)
Gratitude is a mindset that enables us to see our circumstances through the lens of our thankfulness to God and to act in a manner that reflects our gratitude. Some of those actions, which were addressed in previous posts, are developing contentment, being grateful for all God has given us, and working to overcome gratitude killers—envy, covetousness, and greed. Another action based on our outlook of gratitude, which helps in our growth toward Christlikeness, is generosity.
As our goal is to be more like Jesus, to be godly, one of God’s characteristics we can imitate is generosity. When we think of God in the context of generosity, we realize just how extravagant His giving is. We see His generosity in giving His Son to die for us so that we can experience forgiveness and eternal life. He gives us salvation as a gift:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.1
He is generous with His grace.
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us…2
The grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.3
We also see God’s generosity every day in the world around us, in the natural beauty of creation, the magnificent colors, beautiful sunsets, the melody of a bird’s chirping, and so much more. Not to mention the working of creation:
You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance. The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness. The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.4
And then there’s heaven:
Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.5
When we understand that God is generous by nature, that all He has given us is both valuable and undeserved, then in our desire to be like Him, we too should be generous with others.
Generosity is in part an outgrowth of contentment. It’s easier to be generous if we carry an attitude that God has sufficiently cared for us and has fulfilled our needs. When we have the peace which contentment brings, that feeling of faith and trust that God has and will continue to supply what we need, then it is easier to be openhanded. Generosity is outward action which reflects our inner contentment. When generosity sees a need, it says, “I have enough, and you don’t, so I want to share what I have with you.”
Another key to generosity is having the right understanding of ownership—recognizing that as the creator of all things, ultimately God owns everything, and what He has entrusted to us is under our stewardship.6
Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.7
Even though we may earn the money to purchase things, it’s the Lord who ultimately gives us our life, abilities, and everything we have, which enables us to do what we do. This concept can be seen in Deuteronomy 8:10, where the Israelites were instructed to thank God for the food that they grew, as God was the one who gave them the land, the means by which they were able to grow food. Though they worked to produce the food, God provided the means.
You shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.
In the book Character Makeover, the authors make a good point:
Generosity is based on humility. It is humbling to credit God for everything we acquire, but when we do so, it helps us loosen our grip on our belongings and give them up to his control.8
When we accept that we are caretakers of what God has blessed us with, and that He is the ultimate example of generosity, we’ll want to align our attitude about giving with His. Let’s look at some of what Scripture tells us about God’s outlook on giving.
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.9
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.10
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.11
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.12
We must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’13
Many of us don’t have much money, but giving isn’t limited to money alone. As those called to imitate our generous Father, we can generously use our God-given abilities, time, talents, gifts, as well as finances when we have them, to help others. While we don’t all have the same amount of finances or material goods, or even the same amount of time to spare, we all can find ways to sacrificially carve out some time for the benefit of others, as a way to be generous.
Volunteering to watch someone’s children for a few hours, driving someone who can no longer drive to the store, helping out at a local food bank, mentoring someone, visiting the lonely, are examples of generosity that are sometimes even more difficult than giving finances.
Perhaps you have a special gift that you can use to bless others. For example, maybe you’re a good cook and could use your talent to help cook once or twice a month at a local soup kitchen. If you have a skill, you can probably find a way to use it to help others. We each have some God-given gifts, talents, and abilities to offer, so we might want to consider giving some of them back to Him through using them to help others in some way. Whether we give finances or time and talent, and whether we can afford to give a little or a lot of either, our giving is generous when we give what we can.
Becoming more like Jesus calls for honoring God by imitating Him in generosity in whatever way we can. As the stewards of all He has given us, when we use our gifts, talents, skills, and finances in alignment with God’s generosity, we honor Him.
Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.14
Then the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD.15
While giving of our finances or our God-given talents is a sacrifice, Scripture teaches that those who make this sacrifice are rewarded in this life and the life to come.
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.16
Whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.17
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.18
The apostle Paul wrote about giving to those in need:
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!19
Paul made the point that generosity causes three effects. First, those who give are enriched—when they sow bountifully, they reap bountifully; God causes His grace to overflow on them so that they will have what they need, and He loves those who give cheerfully. Second, when people are enriched and blessed because of their giving, they are blessed with more, and therefore are able to be even more generous. And last, because of generous giving, those on the receiving end overflow with thanksgiving to God and give Him glory.
Of course, some are able to give more than others, as they have more. The blessings for those who give aren’t connected to the amount they give. Jesus made this point when He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”20 We also see the point of giving what we are able in the book of Ezra, when the Jews, after being allowed to return to Israel, contributed to the building of the temple, according to their ability.21
The principle of generosity includes giving to the Lord. In Old Testament Scripture, the Jewish people were required to tithe ten percent of their increase to the Lord. Scripture in the New Testament doesn’t specify a specific percentage or require tithing, but the expectation is that Christians will give generously to the Lord; for after all, He is the one who has blessed us with it, and it all ultimately belongs to Him. When God spoke about giving in the Old Testament, it was understood that the tithe was the minimum, and that giving to the needy was over and above the tithe. That seems to be a good standard for giving—tithing ten percent to the Lord and His work, as well as giving what one can to help others in need.
Financially giving to the Lord and others can be difficult, especially if you are struggling to make ends meet. It’s logical to feel we can’t give when we don’t have sufficient. If you feel you are truly unable to tithe ten percent of your income, consider giving some small amount of your finances to begin with, and trust that as you do, He will bless you. As He blesses you, keep giving to Him, increasing the amount as you can with the goal of eventually tithing ten percent. If you don’t have any extra finances to help the needy, then remember that all giving doesn’t need to be financial; you can offer time or some other form of help to people in need.
As the Lord demonstrates His generosity to us in countless ways, and our desire is to be more like Him, generosity should be high on our list of ways to become more Christlike. Developing generosity calls us to believe that we are stewards of our material belongings—not owners—and that we are expected to be good stewards of what is entrusted into our care. As stewards, we are to look to the Lord for His direction regarding how to use what He’s blessed us with. This means asking Him how He wants us to use what we have for His glory. We can find much of that direction in Scripture. We know we are to provide for our family,22 to do what we can to help those in need,23 to be compassionate,24 to give to the Lord,25 to live within our means,26 to be content,27 to have wisdom,28 and to be prayerful.29 We’re to trust God to provide for us and to thank Him whether we are abased or abounding.30
We have seen in previous posts in this series that developing gratitude in our lives calls for putting off envy, greed, and covetousness, and putting on contentment and generosity. As we do these things, we will progress in our gratitude to the Lord; we will be more aware of and thankful for His abundant blessings, many of which may now go unnoticed.
When we are thankful to the Lord, it shows Him that we recognize His goodness and faithfulness to provide and care for us. It tells Him that we know that we are totally dependent on Him, and that all we have comes from His hand. When we are grateful to Him, we acknowledge His majesty, His generosity, His love and care for us.
When writing the Colossians about some of the fundamentals of living their faith, Paul included thankfulness.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.31
Gratitude is an integral part of our walk with God. Sadly, we sometimes don’t acknowledge and thank God for our blessings. We read a sad example of this in the Gospels:
[As Jesus] entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” 32
It’s hard to imagine that the other nine weren’t thankful, but only one specifically acknowledged and thanked God. Lord help us all to give thanks to Him for our blessings.
Gratitude is an important part of our interaction with God and becoming more like Him. Developing gratitude, like any other godly character trait, takes effort; but putting in that effort is important to our walk with Him. It’s easy to get used to our blessings, or even to not consider God’s hand in them. But if our desire is to become more godly, we must work to put on gratitude through contentment and generosity. We must put in the effort to make ourselves much more aware of the abundance of God’s blessings in our lives by developing the habit of recognizing our blessings, both big and small, and regularly praising and thanking Him for them; giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.33
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1 Ephesians 2:8.
2 Ephesians 1:7–8.
3 1 Timothy 1:14.
4 Psalm 65:9–13 NIV.
5 1 Corinthians 2:9 NAS.
7 Job 41:11.
8 Katie Brazelton and Shelley Leith, Character Makeover (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 248.
9 Proverbs 19:17.
10 Luke 6:38.
11 2 Corinthians 9:6.
12 2 Corinthians 9:7.
13 Acts 20:35.
14 Proverbs 3:9.
15 1 Chronicles 29:9.
16 Proverbs 11:25.
17 Matthew 10:42.
18 1 Timothy 6:18–19.
19 2 Corinthians 9:6–15.
20 Luke 21:1–4.
21 Ezra 2:69.
22 If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8).
23 Deuteronomy 15:11; Ephesians 4:28; Hebrews 13:16; Matthew 5:42; Proverbs 3:27; Romans 12:13.
24 Matthew 9:36; Colossians 3:12.
25 Proverbs 3:9; Deuteronomy 14:22; 2 Chronicles 31:6.
26 Proverbs 22:7, 26–27.
27 Hebrews 13:5; 1 Timothy 6:6.
28 Proverbs 2:1–15; Psalm 111:10.
29 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Psalm 105:4.
30 Philippians 4:12.
31 Colossians 2:6–7 NIV.
32 Luke 17:12–19.
33 Ephesians 5:20.