It has been said that there are no purely altruistic, or self-less acts of generosity; that the giver always has some self-serving motive. Yet the Bible instructs us to be radically and altruistically generous.
A friend of mine, Elise, told me of being a little girl in Holland, and on the street she lived on there was a group of bullies. They wouldn’t play with Elise and generally made life miserable for her. So Elise came up with a plan. She broke her piggybank and went and bought a big bag of candy from the candy store; quite a treat at that time. And her plan worked. They were nice to her and played with her . . . as long as the candy lasted.
It’s obvious in this innocent little tale, that Elise had ulterior motives, to protect herself from bullying and get some “affection.” She made a generous act, but was not acting out of a generous heart. This is by no way a criticism; in fact Jesus told a similar parable calling the person shrewd. But the Bible calls us to not just do generous things but to be generous in heart.
Here’s something Jesus said that’s going to ruffle some feathers: Luke 6:30 “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” And a little further down verse 35 “lend . . . without expecting to get anything back.”
“What!? That’s unrealistic! That’s won’t work in real life! That’s crazy!” Yes, but that’s God. That is how God, particularly in Christ Jesus, has related to us. And the parallel passage in Matthew 5 concludes with these words: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That means don’t just do those kinds of generous acts, be that kind of generous person inside.
The only way we can be the kind of generous people who “joyfully accept the plundering of our property” as Hebrews 10:34 says, is if we trust that God is taking care of us. If I take God at his word that he will supply all my needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus, then I can have the confidence to live from a radically generous heart.
Imagine a world in which everyone lived and related out of a radically generous heart. That world literally is heaven. But only those who have within them the radical nature of Jesus himself will be there. That nature is available to you here and now.