The generosity of God is nowhere displayed so vividly as in the Father giving the Son (John 3:16-17). It is in the Father’s giving of his only begotten Son that God’s immeasurable good will toward his people is proved. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). The gift of the Son is made all the more profound once it is realized that the Father “gave him up” not merely to be a good teacher or a good example. Rather, the Father gave up the Son to be a sacrifice for the sins of alienated sinners. As the Apostle Paul states: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Who can fathom such generosity?
While it is true that Jesus came first and foremost as a sacrifice for sinners, he came also as an example to follow for all those who would believe in him. Jesus called his disciples to not receive from him only but to follow him as well: “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me” (John 12:26). The Apostle Peter wrote, “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example to follow” (1 Peter 2:21). We must also remember Jesus’ words from Luke 9, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (vs. 23). Reflecting on this, Martin Luther wrote, “This double kindness is the twofold aspect of Christ: gift and example.”
The New Testament presents the cross in two crucial ways. First the cross represents Christ’s death for sinners as the only way for sins to be atoned for and peace with God established. Second, the cross is an example for believers. It calls all those who believe in Christ to follow his example of sacrificial love. As Luther wrote, “Christ is yours, presented to you as a gift. After that it is necessary that you turn this into an example and deal with your neighbor in the very same way, be given to him also as a gift and an example.”
No exploration of the generosity of God is complete unless it encourages the recipients to embody that very kindness for the glory of God and the sake of others. Following Jesus is not about carefully calculating a percentage of what we can safely give. Rather the way of discipleship is the way of the cross. Being Christian is not about percentages. It is about following and being conformed to a Person.
Yet, even in the way of cross-shaped living, we are promised that God will always out-give us. Whatever we give, God will give all the more. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake be became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).