Steve Jobs was a revolutionary. He turned an industry around. He did it by doing things differently than how they were being done. His pitch was: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers.”
The early church was revolutionary. Their pitch could have been: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in Jesus and living differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by living lives that are beautifully designed and simple. We just happen to live generous lives.”
Those first followers of Jesus were said to have “turned the world upside down” in a very short time. How did they do that? Many factors were involved but the most dominant one is that they understood and practiced revolutionary generosity.
They challenged the status quo. They didn’t buy into their culture. People who merely conform to their culture never impact it. Something has to be radically different and unique.
They showed the people around them more of what life could be by not living in the way of the culture but instead living in the way of Jesus.
The story of Acts tells us that instead of acquiring things they got rid of things. They sold what they had and took the proceeds to the Apostles to take care of needs. Barnabas—called the “son of encouragement”—takes his extra property, sells it, and gives it to the Apostles and tells them to help others with it.
These people didn’t just give away the old shirts and dresses and shoes in their closets. Paul says in 2 Corinthians that one group—the Macedonian believers—gave even out of their poverty. These people had a vision for what God wanted his world to look like and, since they didn’t see it happening, they set out to do something about it. The early believers were generous out of their plenty and out of their poverty.
Want to be more generous? Here is how to get started:
- It starts with a vision for God’s preferred future. We’ve got to see “what can be” so that when we see “what is” we are moved to act. There are two visions you can choose from. One is a vision of your preferred future. This vision has to do with your money being yours and a future you are creating for yourself. Another option is a vision of God’s preferred future. This vision has to do with seeing the money you have as God’s and a future he wants you to be involved in where no one lacks their basic needs, where people feel safe, and where communities are at peace.
- A vision of God’s preferred future will lead you to a commitment to the discipline of simplicity. Jesus led a simple life and so can we. We have to recognize what our “needs” are and understand what our “wants” are. The “wants” are what get in our way of simplicity and generosity. Ask God where you have been excessive and where he wants you to redirect those resources to help create a better future that looks more like the one the Kingdom will fully bring.
Generosity can change your life. Better yet, it can turn the world upside down.
Question: How has your life changed by times you lived more simply so you could help others?