The Motivating Power of Christ’s Generosity
OFTEN if people see others respond to the needs of fellow humans, they are encouraged to display like generosity. In the first century, when Christians in Macedonia heard about the zealous efforts of fellow believers in Achaia to aid poor Christians in Jerusalem, they were stirred to share in the relief effort.—2 Cor. 9:1, 2.
However, for Christians, the generosity of their Master, Jesus Christ, has had even greater motivating power. The apostle Paul pointed to this when he wrote to the Corinthians, saying: “You know the undeserved kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich he became poor for your sakes, that you might become rich through his poverty.” (2 Cor. 8:9) Having worked with his Father in the creation of the entire universe, Jesus in his prehuman existence shared the ownership of all things, visible and invisible. He also possessed the glory of an only-begotten son. Among all of God’s angelic sons, he was the preeminent one.—John 1:14; Col. 1:15-18.
The Son willingly gave up all of this to become a man. (Phil. 2:5-8) His first bed was just a feeding trough. His mother, Mary, and his foster father, Joseph, were poor. Throughout his life on earth he had little materially. He once told a man who was seeking to be a disciple: “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have roosts, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” (Luke 9:57, 58) Nevertheless, Jesus personally took an interest in those who were in dire material need. He and his apostles had a common fund for helping poor Israelites.—Matt. 26:9-11; Mark 14:5-7; John 12:5-8; 13:29.
What Jesus Christ did in coming to earth made it possible for his disciples to come into possession of great riches. They became sons of God, heirs of a heavenly kingdom and recipients of divine blessings during the time of their life on earth and for all eternity upon being raised from the dead. (Rom. 8:17) If it had not been for the generosity of Jesus Christ, we today would still be under the condemnation of sin and death, with no prospect of life.—Rom. 6:23.
Appreciation for Jesus Christ’s generosity promoted a fine spirit of giving among the early Christians. Shortly after the Christian congregation was founded, we are told: “There was not one in need among them; for all those who were possessors of fields or houses would sell them and bring the values of the things sold and they would deposit them at the feet of the apostles. In turn distribution would be made to each one, just as he would have the need.”—Acts 4:34, 35.
This arrangement was particularly appropriate in view of the then existing circumstances. Many Jews and proselytes had come to the festival of Pentecost in the year 33 C.E. They had not intended to prolong their stay in the city. However, on being given a powerful witness by Peter, and later by others, thousands became believers in Jesus Christ. These new disciples still had much to learn and needed the encouragement and strengthening that the apostles could give them. Thus the generosity of their fellow believers made it possible for them to remain longer in Jerusalem to be built up spiritually.
Such a fine spirit of generous giving was also reflected by Christians at Philippi. When Lydia became a disciple of Jesus Christ, she said to Paul and his companions: “If you men have judged me to be faithful to Jehovah, enter into my house and stay.” Paul’s traveling companion Luke adds: “She just made us come.”—Acts 16:15.
Later, as Paul labored elsewhere, Christians at Philippi sent him contributions to assist him in advancing the “good news.” In his letter to the Philippians, we read: “When I departed from Macedonia, not a congregation took a share with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone; because, even in Thessalonica, you sent something to me both once and a second time for my need.” (Phil. 4:15, 16) When writing these words, Paul was in confinement at Rome. Again the Philippians had come to his aid. Not only had they sent a contribution but they also commissioned a faithful brother, Epaphroditus, to minister to the apostle. This meant that Epaphroditus had to undertake a trip by sea and land that amounted to well over 1,000 miles (1,600 km). So self-sacrificing was he in expending himself in behalf of his beloved brother Paul that he became seriously ill. Happily, though, he recovered.—Phil. 2:25-27; 4:18.
Blessings from Generosity
Like the Philippians, other Christians in the first century came to experience the superlative happiness that comes from giving. (Acts 20:35) They had the inner joy that results from aiding others. Also, a person’s rendering spiritual and material aid from the heart has great value in the eyes of Jehovah God. The Most High views this as an acceptable sacrifice. Note the words of Hebrews 13:15, 16: “Through him let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name. Moreover, do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”
Jesus Christ gave the assurance that generosity would not be overlooked by his heavenly Father. He said: “When making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, that your gifts of mercy may be in secret; then your Father who is looking on in secret will repay you.” (Matt. 6:3, 4) The Son of God was rewarded richly for divesting himself of all his riches and becoming poor for the sake of humankind. Accordingly, the apostle Paul wrote: “God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend . . . and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.’ (Phil. 2:9-11) God’s Son did not lose as a result of his superlative generosity. Neither will any of his disciples. Even now many thousands can testify to the fact that their giving has been greatly blessed.
Christian Generosity Today
Among Jehovah’s servants today can be seen a sincere desire to imitate the generosity of Jesus Christ. Many unselfishly devote their time, energies and assets in calling on people at their homes to bring them the comforting “good news” set forth in the Scriptures. Expenses incurred in the maintenance and upkeep of their meeting places are cared for through their voluntary contributions. On a personal and a congregational level, they respond generously in providing aid to persons in material need. (Jas. 1:27) During times of general calamity, observers have been amazed to see how quickly Jehovah’s Witnesses organize relief measures.
Often persons ask how they could contribute toward the furtherance of the work that is being done by Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the earth. Besides assisting the local congregation in its efforts to spread the “good news,” individuals may make contributions directly to the Watch Tower Society at 124 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or to any of its branches.
In a number of countries, at present there is another avenue open for ‘honoring Jehovah with a person’s valuable things,’ and this to the spiritual benefit of the giver. (Prov. 3:9, 10) Throughout the earth, the Watch Tower Society is endeavoring to update its facilities and equipment for printing and publishing the “good news” by means of Bibles and Bible literature, including magazines. Already, there has been some progress in this regard, as our readers have no doubt noted. However, modern printing presses, as, for example, for offset printing, are quite expensive, and the extent to which we are able to improve our facilities will depend upon the funds available during the next year or two.
To this end, in those countries where new factory projects are under way, a special loan arrangement has been set up. By this means those who are interested may deposit any funds they have available with the Watch Tower Society, so that the Society may put such funds to work in taking care of this expansion program. After several years, the Society will repay the loan in its entirety. In the event such a factory project is under way in your country, you may obtain the complete details from the local branch of the Watch Tower Society. Giving wholehearted support to such building projects has always resulted in great joy to God’s people, both in Bible times and today.—Ex. 36:4, 5, 7; 1 Chron. 29:9.
Truly, as in the past, so today the example of Christ’s generosity has motivating power. Because hundreds of thousands deeply appreciate what Almighty God has done for them by means of his Son, they continue zealously to spread the “good news” far and wide. Are you personally experiencing the joy that sharing in this vital activity brings? May you find the apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians fulfilled in your case: “God will fully supply all your need to the extent of his riches in glory by means of Christ Jesus.”—Phil. 4:19.