Last week we considered the work of God on our hearts, causing us to be a people who are marked by generous hearts. Generosity is to be a character trait of the Christian person and it should end up being reflected in all of life. However, just because such heart-work is Holy-Spirit-work does not mean that it will happen automatically and without some difficulty. The Bible teaches us to “not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19 NRSV), which means of course that we can quench or stifle the work of the Holy Spirit.
One of the quickest ways of quenching the Spirit’s work in our lives is through pride. Pride kills the generosity in our hearts before we even get started. We think to ourselves “I do generous things. I am generous. I have a generous heart. I am generous enough!” See what such thinking does? It cuts us off from growing further. We may well be generous, and may seem especially so when compared with others, but when pride hits, growth stops. Even the best givers among us have room for heart-growth in generosity.
So how do we keep ourselves from aiming a fire hose at the generosity-fire the Holy Spirit has lit in our hearts?
Let me begin with an example. One area in which pride can quickly grow in me is in my ability to play bass guitar. Having participated in numerous bands with a diversity of styles I have progressed in my abilities. Though signing far less autographs than the frontman or guitarist, I have received much affirmation as a bass player. However, when I see, hear, or am with a really good bass player, I want to never play bass again! Instead I want to leave it to the masters and go back to jamming alone in my basement. This is an experience of humility, a recognition that I have so much more to learn. So the trick to dealing with pride is to spend time with a master. And when it comes to generosity there is no master greater than the Master Himself. Consider that God the Father is:
- generous in setting up a universe fit for human flourishing
- generous in provision
- generous in giving freedom
- generous in giving us the Scriptures
- generous in sending prophets
- generous in establishing covenants
- generous in making promises
- generous in loyal love
- generous in grace
- generous in giving His Son
- generous in giving His Holy Spirit
And now consider God the Son who is:
- generous in his teaching
- generous in his calling of disciples
- generous in his healing
- generous in his feeding
- generous in his serving
- generous in his death
- generous in his resurrection
- generous in His return
- generous in His shepherding
And consider God the Holy Spirit who is:
- generous in His presence
- generous in His comfort
- generous in His conviction
- generous in His challenge
And we could think of so much more. Now that is what generosity looks like! You do not need to walk with our Lord too far before you realize the extent of His generosity and the humble generosity that is yours. The prophet Micah encourages us to “walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8 NRSV).” Is there any other way to walk with God? When you spend time with God you get over yourself. Pride is replaced with humility.
But humility is not the only thing that we experience. Upon hearing a master bass player I want to give up, yes, but I do pick up the bass again and aspire to do better. Pride gives way to humility plus aspiration. Spending time with our Lord will make us aspire to greater generosity as we seek to emulate the Master.
Do you have a generous heart?
If you immediately answer “yes” then the challenge is to walk with Jesus. You may well be generous and you may be an example to others. But be careful you are not stifling the Spirit’s work in your life, getting stuck where you are and no longer growing toward where Jesus is. Walk with the Master and let Him deal with your pride as you learn what a generous heart really looks like. Let pride turn to humility and aspiration and let your already generous heart grow under the Spirit’s guidance.
If you answered “no” then you have the opportunity for great growth. Walk with the Master and let Him show you what a generous heart looks like. Then aspire to have generosity fill your heart, emulating the Master.