God’s gift to us of his Son is the greatest act of generosity that has ever occurred. The Son of God was given to us to live as a Son of Man, so he could become our Savior and our King.
The Lord is King forever and ever.
Way back in Genesis, our generous God and King chose Abraham to become the father of the many nations, through whom he would bless the earth. When Abraham’s children had become a great nation, God rescued them from captivity in Egypt. He provided for their daily needs and gave them a law to live by and a land to live in.
All of these are the things a good king does. He made them his own people. But, throughout the Old Testament, with few exceptions, God’s people rejected him and asked for a king they could see.
Mankind has continued the pattern Israel set through centuries: We reject him and desire to rule ourselves. But God knows we need a king.
So, instead of abandoning us or retaliating, God gave us a gift, his greatest ever: his Son. Though we did not honor God as we should, in his unbounded generosity, he gave the very best and most valuable thing he had, the Son whom he loved.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
We have heard this verse enough times to be almost inoculated against the power of it.
John 3:16 is so familiar we forget the double, unimaginable sacrifice behind it. God gave his only Son to suffer and be killed. Jesus let go of the perfection of heavenly community. He emptied himself and traded his perfect life for our mess, when we didn’t even know him, while we were still sinning (Romans 5:8)! (We forget that the “should not perish” is there because perishing is exactly the consequence our sin deserves.)
A gift beyond measure
Jesus left his kingdom in heaven and the glory he had there to take on human flesh (though many still saw his glory by his grace – John 1:14). This alone would have been enough to make him the most generous person to ever walk on earth.
The first chapter of the book of John tells us that Jesus came to be God with us. He was with God in the beginning. He was God from the beginning (John 1:1). Everything was created through him, and life and light belong to him. He came to earth to give that light to us (John 1:9).
But the people he, himself, had created did not recognize him. Most didn’t receive him (John 1:11-12). Yet to those of us who do receive him, he gives the right to enter his family forever, to become children of God (John 1:12; Galatians 3:26; 1 John 5:13), even to reign with him (2 Timothy 2:12). This is unimaginable generosity.
Jesus lived a life that daily demonstrated generosity:
- With his time (John 4:6-40 – read carefully these first and last verses)
- With his gifts (John 2:6-10, 14:14)
- With his forgiveness (John 21:15-17)
- With his provision of more than was asked of him, constantly (Matthew 14:13-21, see verse 20)
After living a life that demonstrated pure generosity, Jesus, our king, gave us his glory (John 17:22). Then he gave his own life to save us (John 17:22, 19:30, 1 John 3:16).
The gift of Christ’s work
We could daily contemplate the generosity involved in the act of giving that happened on the cross and only begin to fathom it. A king came and died for our sakes. It is too good. It is overwhelming. This gift is beyond measure, unarguably, the greatest expression of generosity ever. Daniel M. Bell, Jr., author and professor of theology and ethics at Lutheran Theological Seminary writes:
Christ’s work on the cross is a display of the plenitude of divine charity…of God’s giving and giving again. The atonement is not a settling of accounts, an exaction of payment, or the calling in of a debt. Rather it is a matter of God’s ceaseless generosity, of God’s graceful prodigality. It is a matter of donation, of divine donation for our sake. Thus, Christ is not our offering to God but God’s offering to us.
The Father has offered us a king and a kingdom. If we accept his offer, he promises that everything else we worry about will be taken care of (Luke 12:22-34). He gives us a law to live by, and he will give us a land to live in. It is his joy to be generous to us:
Seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
Jesus, our King, will return, with another gift (Revelation 22:12), eternal life for those who gave their lives to him. In the meantime, he asks that we join with him, praying that this kingdom come soon: Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10).