In this guest post from Randy Alcorn, author, founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries, he shares with us the true way to find a life of abundance: generosity.
“The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him” (John 7:38, CSB).
There’s an unmistakable sign of an overflowing, abundant life that comes from knowing Jesus, the author of life: generosity to others.
An old but helpful illustration applies to the abundant, generous life. In northern Israel lies the beautiful Sea of Galilee, where Jesus often sailed with his disciples. Water freely flows into the Sea of Galilee from the Jordan River, and its water is fresh and life giving.
Eighty-eight miles to the south is a larger and radically different body of water. One of the lowest places on the planet, the Dead Sea collects large volumes of water but disperses none. Its salt concentration is so high — ten times greater than ocean water — that no fish or vegetation can survive there.
While the Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee, it also flows out. The water simply passes through, allowing it to support fish life and plants. Trapped, with no outlet, the Dead Sea keeps taking water in, but no water leaves it except by evaporation.
No outlet means no life.
This is a good parable of the Christian life in general — and an even better parable of the generous life in particular. In order to be faithful stewards and to love others, we must be not only recipients of God’s provision but also outlets of it. Only then will we experience the true and abundant life he intends for us.
Such a dramatic overflow can have an amazing effect even on those who are hostile to the Christian faith. My friend pastors a church that rents a public school auditorium on Sundays. When a new principal arrived, he showed hostility toward Christians. His lifestyle was the kind he figured the church wouldn’t approve of, and he was probably right.
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One day the principal saw a Bible on the desk of one of his teachers — someone who was also a member of the church. He was told that teachers have the legal right to have their Bibles in plain sight, but he wasn’t impressed. He urged the pastor to find another place to meet.
But over the next few years, something happened. The principal discovered that church members cheerfully give time and money for the sake of the school — a practice that was in place before he came. They schedule cleanup days. They serve teachers meals during parent-teacher conferences. They give teachers gift cards each year. They do this not simply to win favor but because Christ’s love and kindness overflow from their lives.
The pastor of the church told me,
“Three years later, this principal is no longer an antagonist; he’s our advocate. Our works of service have softened his heart toward the Lord. He’s confiding in me, and he invites me to speak to his school staff.”
The pastor calls it an astonishing turnaround. And what was the cause? It was simply Christians living the good life, which always entails good deeds of generosity. Jesus put it this way: “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16, NIV).
Generosity Is Contagious
The more we give in Christ’s name, the more life he will put into us. And the more life we have flowing into us, the more that life will flow out of us to others.
“Give, and it will be given to you,” Jesus said. “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” (Luke 6:38, NIV).
By giving generously of our money and possessions, we’re able to open our hands to receive the abundant life God has for us. God is the greatest giver in the universe, and it’s impossible to outgive him. This is not prosperity theology. It is simply the way our generous God delights to work in the lives of his children.
Out of a deep love for Jesus, Pete and Debbie Ochs decided to acquire a business constructing industrial products in prisons. They employ inmates, some of whom have committed violent crimes. They invest in these prisoners’ lives by offering life lessons on topics like parenting, finances, and relationships. Pete says, “In one of our life lessons, we presented this whole concept of generosity and challenged [the prisoners] that we would match dollar for dollar any dollar that they gave to one of a number of charities and we gave them a list. It was amazing the amount of money that these prisoners gave to charity … Most of the charities … existed to help the victims of the crimes that they committed.”
Pete’s ministry to prisoners reflects the heartbeat of Scripture. Ephesians 4:28 says, “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may —” That they may what? Have only enough to live on so they no longer have to steal? No. “That they may have something to share with those in need” (NIV, emphasis added).
Giving isn’t just for those with squeaky-clean records; it’s for all of us.
Pete and Debbie’s overflowing good life has not only brought these men the gospel but has also introduced them to the overflow of joyful giving so they, too, can experience abundant life.
The good life in Christ is not only wonderful for those who live it; it is also a joy for those who behold it.