11-15 Blog

Generosity Reflects Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is often filled with turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, morning 5ks, parades, football, and post-meal naps. It is a day of gathering, reconnecting, eating, laughing, and debating the latest political issue with your relatives.

Thanksgiving Day is also a season of thankfulness and gratitude. Such a season is the perfect time to live generously.

Generosity Reflects Thanksgiving

In Luke 8:1-3, we find the account of three women: Mary, Joanna, and Susanna. According to this passage, Jesus had either cured the women from a disease or cast demons from them. Mary, specifically, had seven demons cast from her. They were in a desperate place, but then, they met Jesus.

Prior to meeting Jesus, these women were suffering and in bondage. After meeting Jesus, they were healed and free.

Prior to meeting Jesus, they were outcasts of society. After meeting Jesus, they were adopted daughters of the King of Kings.

Mary, Joanna, and Susanna were each given an undeserved gift. Like all recipients of Jesus’ miracle, these women did nothing to deserve their healing or freedom. But, as evidenced by Scripture, they eagerly accepted it.

How did Mary, Joanna, and Susanna respond to Jesus’ generosity? Like nine of the ten lepers in Luke 17, did they simply go along their way? Quite to the contrary. Luke tells us they responded by following Christ and generously supporting Him with their means. Their gratitude toward Christ resulted in generosity.

As we consider this Thanksgiving season, what lessons do these three women teach us? Here are two:

Lesson #1: Undeserved gifts should prompt thankfulness.

We are thankful when we realize the gift is undeserved. When was the last time someone gave you an undeserved gift? Maybe someone gave you a couple tickets to a sporting event. Maybe someone brought a meal to your house. Maybe someone covered an unexpected expense you could not afford. Whatever the gift was, you did nothing to earn it. The only act necessary was to receive the gift.

Inevitably, you were thankful for the gift. Thankfulness is a natural response to an underserved gift. You cannot point to yourself as the reason for the gift. It is completely detached from your efforts. The gift is a result of the giver’s effort. All you can do is say, “Thank you.”

All good things are undeserved. James 1:17 tells us, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”

There is nothing good that we have that is deserved. Our car, home, food, friends, and family are not deserved. Our opportunity and ability to work are not deserved. Our salvation is certainly not deserved. The gift received by Mary, Joanna, and Susanna was undeserved. What is deserved? According to the Scriptures, eternal separation from God (Romans 3:23). That is what we deserve. So, Christians, recognize that all good things are underserved.

Lesson #2: Our response to generosity should be generosity.

Those who understand the underserving gift they have been given should be generous themselves. Denying someone a cup of whatever when you have been given a feast counters the characters of our God. So, what does this mean for those who recognize that all good gifts come from God, including the greatest, undeserved gift of all—Jesus? The answer is that we should be known as a generous people.

Mary, Joanna, and Susanna responded to their undeserved gift with generosity. From thanksgiving flows generosity. This Thanksgiving, remember that for which you are grateful. Be thankful for all the good gifts God has provided you. Be thankful for the sacrifice of His one and only Son, Jesus. And in response, let generosity flow. Here are some ideas on how to do that:

How to Live Generously This Thanksgiving

As you consider how to live generously this Thanksgiving, consider your time, talent, and treasure.

1. Consider giving your time.

Many ministries, including your local church, do significant work during the Thanksgiving season. Some ministries provide meals for the homeless. Other ministries provide Thanksgiving turkeys for those who cannot afford them. Some churches need additional help for their Sunday services. All these ministries need volunteers. Consider how you can generously give your time in response to the undeserved gifts you have received.

2. Consider giving your talent.

What skills has God blessed you with? Are you a good craftsman? Do you know how to fix a computer? Can you mow a lawn? Can you bake some incredible chocolate chip cookies? God has given each of us talents and abilities to use for His glory. This Thanksgiving, think of a way you can leverage your talents and abilities to showcase the love of Christ to someone else. The gift does not need to be complex. Simply mowing an elderly or disabled person’s lawn can demonstrate the love of God. Give your talents this Thanksgiving.

3. Consider giving your treasure.

Proverbs 3:9 tells us that we are to give our first and best gift to God. For most of us, this means we give a portion of our gross (pre-tax) income to our local church. This Thanksgiving, consider giving an “above and beyond” gift. These gifts are in addition to your regular giving. You can give additional money to the church, maybe to help cover the costs of the Thanksgiving ministry effort. You could give to another Kingdom-advancing nonprofit that is impacting the community for Christ this Thanksgiving. Let your financial generosity flow from your thanksgiving this November.

 

We serve an incredibly good and generous God. He lavishly gave us His Son so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (John 3:16). This Thanksgiving, respond to God’s generosity in the same way Mary, Joanna, and Susanna responded to their undeserved gifts—by following Jesus and living generously. Consider your time, talent, and treasure. May this be a Thanksgiving where the overflow of your gratitude towards God turns into generosity toward others.

Art Rainer
Art Rainer

Art Rainer is the Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes and speaks widely about issues related to finance, wealth, and generosity, and is the author of The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money. Art lives in Wake Forest, North Carolina with his wife, Sarah, and their three children.

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