Encounter: Find a quiet place to be with God and after a few moments of silence ask God to reveal Himself to you as you read Romans 8:31-32, 35, 37-39 and Genesis 2:15-17 NLT, 2 Corinthians 9:8, Philippians 4:19, Ephesians 1:3, Malachi 3:10, John 3:34
A few weeks ago while in Gatlinburg, Jack and I were having dinner at a beautiful restaurant on a hillside. There was another couple at the table next to us and soon we were having conversation and sharing stories about life, family and the challenges we have experienced. We listened as the man shared about a difficult situation when their daughters were teenagers and we could tell it really helped him to confide in us. We exchanged contact information and let them know what a pleasure it was to meet them. After finishing dinner we received our bill, but instead of showing what we owed, there was a zero balance. Jack asked our server for the bill and with a smile he told us the couple we had been talking to had paid for our dinner in full. What a lovely surprise! In that moment, our sometimes cold, selfish, look out for #1 world, became warm, hopeful, and loving. We experienced God’s generosity through two strangers and for a moment the world was as it should be.
Then today I was reading a leadership devotional and there it was again, God as Giver. Mark Roberts writes in Life for Leaders, a Devotional Resource of the DePree Leadership Center at Fuller Theological Seminary,
There is a tendency among readers and scholars of Genesis 2:16-17 to focus on the prohibition of verse 17: “but the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.”
…I want to pause to consider with you verse 16: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden.”
We have already learned in Genesis 2 that God “made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (2:9). Now we hear that the man, and by implication all human beings, may eat the fruit from every single tree in the garden, save one. God is giving us all kinds of fruit from all kinds of trees, inviting us to enjoy it. The Hebrew phrase which could be rendered literally as “from all the trees of the garden to eat you may eat” underscores the opportunity and freedom for human beings. We may “freely eat” the fruit of every single tree, with one exception.
I’m struck here by this picture of God’s generosity. God did not give us just one kind of tree with one kind of fruit. God did not provide just what we need to survive. Rather, God created a great variety of trees with a great variety and quantity of fruit. If you’ll permit me to read into the text a bit, God created apple trees and orange trees, lemon trees and pineapple trees, cherry trees and plum trees, almond trees and coconut trees, peach trees and pear trees, pecan trees and olive trees. (If I have missed your favorite fruit tree, please add it to the list!)
God made all of this variety and then said, not, “Eat just what you need” but “Freely eat” from all of this. “And as you enjoy the taste and benefit from the nutrition, enjoy the beauty of the tree as well, not to mention its shade.”
Many Christians were raised in homes and churches in which God was not seen to be generous. God was stingy, giving us only what we really need and no more.
Moreover, God was the rule maker, who formed our lives principally by telling us what not to do.
In our study, No Strings - Untangling Your Heart’s Attachment to Money we see in Romans 8 two attributes of God that can help move our hearts’ attachment from money to God. God’s generosity towards us and God’s love towards us. I wonder if more people would follow Jesus if they knew that God wants us to focus more on what He is freely giving us, and not on something he is withholding.
This Sunday we will be reminded of all the ways God’s generosity flows to us and how it is meant to flow through us into all of our relationships, friends, family and neighbors. And like a branch that is naturally given life through the vine, we will find when we live the Jesus Way, we can’t help but be a generous people. As Trevor Hudson writes regarding Jesus as the Vine and life giver of John 15 , “it is difficult to know where one ends and the other begins. A simple and profound oneness exists between them. The two combine almost as one in order to produce ripe grapes. This is what it will be like between your Divine Friend and you. When you give life to others by blessing them and by being with them in a fully present way, it is neither you nor Jesus who alone gives life. You and Jesus are working together. In the words of Jean Vanier, “It is we and Jesus, Jesus in us and us in Jesus.”
God’s love and generosity is like enjoying a feast of the most exquisite culinary delights and receiving a bill that's already been graciously paid by a friend. And now its our turn. Freely we have received, now freely give.
Learning to live generously with you,
Reflect: Underline words and phrases in the encounter passages. How do they change or affirm your present perspectives and beliefs in God’s generosity and love toward you?
Encourage: How do these scriptures encourage your faith about your expectations and belief in God’s love for you? Is there someone in your life who needs to experience the generosity of God that is flowing through you? Think about ways you could show God’s love and generosity and choose one for this coming week.
Gather: Discuss in your small group how you have experienced God as Giver. Were there times when you felt God was not there when you needed something and share how that made you feel. Each of you name one thing you have received from God as Giver in the last week. Share and pray about what you would like to ask God for as you go into your week. If studying No Strings, discuss your answers to questions on p. 39.