Taste and see that the Lord is good.

    Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

Over the past couple of weeks we have been focusing our Sunday mornings around this verse. We’ve discovered that knowing the truth about God – tasting and seeing for ourselves that God is good – that changes everything about how we live our lives.

Because what we believe determines our decisions. Just like how if we have an incorrect belief about gravity – we’re bound to make some foolish decisions that can lead us to having a real wreck. Likewise, believing false ideas about God can lead us to making foolish decisions that will cause us a lot of pain and hurt in our life.

So we want to know the truth about who God is and what He’s like. We want to taste and see for ourselves that God is good. As we do that, we’re gonna find that our day-by-day decisions change – which in turn, affects the entire course of our life!

And I know that many of us are already well into that process of tasting and seeing that God is good. We’ve experienced it for ourselves – and now it’s our turn to help the people around us taste and see for themselves.

Our friends and our neighbours have been fed a lot of mis-information about God. They’ve been told a lot of stuff about God that simply isn’t true. So our job, as disciples of Jesus – as imitators of Jesus – is to help them taste and see (through our lives) that God is good.

For example, we spent time last week looking at how God is joy. He is the source of all joy. He invented laughter and happiness and even pleasure. That was all his idea. The very character of God is joy. And the more we taste and see and experience God’s joy, the more we will find that our life begins to overflow with joy. And its then that our neighbours and friends and co-workers can taste and see that joy through us.

So that’s what we talked about last week and today I want us to look at another truth about God.

I read a very interesting article this week. It was entitled “The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Giving”. I’d love to read you the whole thing, but for the sake of time, let me just read the first couple of paragraphs of the story…

In the early 1990s, a quiet man named João quit his job running the human-resources department of an insurance company in Rio de Janeiro and began selling french fries from a street cart. The fries quickly proved popular, in part because they were delicious—thin and crisp and golden. Even more enticing, João often served them up for free. All you had to do was ask, and he’d scoop some into a box, no charge. What money he did take in, he frequently gave away to children begging in the street or used to buy them sweets.

In his previous life, João—a chubby man with pointy ears and arched black eyebrows—had been stern and serious, prone to squirreling money away. But after suffering a health crisis in 1990, at age 49, he wanted to live differently. “I saw death from close up,” he would often say. “Now I want to be in high spirits.” And nothing made him happier than giving.

What’s most interesting about João’s story, though, is that his new outlook resulted not from a spiritual awakening but from brain damage caused by a stroke. Among other symptoms, he became a chronic insomniac… he started forgetting things and had trouble focusing; his movements slowed. And, his neurologist says, he became “pathologically generous”—compulsively driven to give. His carefree attitude toward money led to confrontations with his family, especially his brother-in-law, who co-owned the french-fry cart. But even when his family berated him, and the cart went out of business, and he was reduced to living on his mother’s pension, João refused to stop. Giving simply made him too happy. ~ The Atlantic Magazine (Read the whole article here…)

The article – which is quite lengthly – then goes on to explore how and why this happened. How does one become pathologically generous? They looked at all the neuroscience and examined several other test cases. It was a fascinating read. And perhaps the thing that I found so interesting was that the article goes on to explain that our brains are actually hard-wired to give. The same parts of the brain that light up and make us feel good when we eat chocolate for example, those are the same parts that light up and make us feel good when we give. We actually get a rush of dopamine when we are generous.

They actually did a test – measuring people’s brain activities to see the difference between when they gave money and when the received money – and they found out that in a very literal sense, neurologically speaking, it really is more blessed to give than to receive. Your brain is hard-wired to enjoy giving – even more than receiving.

But really, we shouldn’t be that surprised to find out that humans are designed to be generous. If we believe what the Bible says in Genesis 1:26 where we read…

26 Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. Genesis 1:26

If we believe that to be true, then it makes perfect sense that we are made to be generous, because that’s exactly who God is. The very character of God is generosity.

In this article that I read, it kinda made me chuckle – it actually said that generosity is a difficulty for modern biologist. This is what it said…. and I quote…

“Explaining generosity is a headache for biologists; Charles Darwin considered the trait one of the gravest threats to his theory of natural selection.”

And I should say so. If it really is survival of the fittest, it’s hard to see how the trait of generosity would be formed in those who managed to claw their way to the top.

But if we are indeed created by the God described in the Bible – and created in His image – then the trait of generosity makes perfect sense.

We maybe don’t talk about God’s generosity as much as his love or his faithfulness or his mercy. But generosity is one of the core character traits of who God is.

James tells us…

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. James 1:5

Paul reminds us…

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 2 Corinthians 9:8

Both James & Paul both describe God as being generous. “Ask our generous God…. God will generously provide all you need.” It certainly seems to them that our God isn’t stingy. But yet, that’s one of the lies about God that even we as Christians sometimes believe.

Two weeks ago we looked at the Adam & Eve’s original sin. God had told them not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but they disobeyed God because they believed the serpent’s lies that God was keeping something good from them. Let’s just re-visit that for a minute. We read in Genesis 3 about how the serpent came to Eve and questioned her about what they could and could not eat – Eve tells the serpent that they were not to eat the fruit from the tree on the middle of the garden – they couldn’t even touch it or else they would die – and here’s what the serpent says in verse 4.

4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” Genesis 3:4

Now in believing the serpent, Adam & Eve doubted God’s generosity. They believed that God was being stingy. Why should only God have the knowledge of good and evil? They wanted to have that too! God had something good and He wasn’t sharing that with them. So if God wasn’t going to share, well then, they’d help themselves.  verse 6 tells us…

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.  Genesis 3:6

So in the end, they chose to disobey God because they didn’t believe that God was generous. They believed that God was unfairly keeping them from this fruit – keeping them from the knowledge of good and evil – keeping them from being like God.

And I wonder how many times do we do the same thing? Of course, we don’t have the same situation, but how many times we do believe that God is unfairly keeping good from us? That somehow He’s being stingy…

I have to admit, I’ve had those thoughts before. In our whole process of trying to sell our house in Mirror, there are certainly times when we are tempted to doubt God’s generosity. If God really was generous, wouldn’t he have already brought someone to buy our house and give us a generous price too?

It doesn’t seem like God is being generous with us – it almost seem like he’s reluctant to give us what we have been asking for. Our family and many others have been praying and praying and praying for this for more than a year. Sometimes we’re tempted to doubt the generosity of God.

I don’t know if you guys ever do this, but sometimes when there is something that we really want, we feel we have to barter with God somehow. Do you ever pray that way – bartering with God? “God, I’ll do this for you, if you’ll just do this for me?”

How often do we approach God like that? Like we have to impress Him somehow in order to be rewarded? Or that we have to earn those good things from Him? Or that somehow we’ve got to persuade him that we’re worthy enough?

I think sometime we forget that one of the core traits of God is his generosity! He is not reluctant to give. He doesn’t need to be persuaded to give. He is actually very eager to give. He loves giving us what we need and what we desire.

And in those times when God doesn’t give us the things we think we need or want, sometimes it’s because God has something better in mind! Maybe some of those things we think we need are like that fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It seems like a good thing to us – but God knows differently.

It’s not that He’s being stingy – really, its actually like generosity in disguise.

In fact, even when we sin and we live in rebellion against God – we still experience God’s generosity – which is amazing! God doesn’t stop being generous when we sin. There is a passage in Matthew where Jesus was talking about how we are to love our enemies and there’s a snippet in there that reminds us of God’s generosity to everyone – both to the saved and to sinners alike. Matthew 5:44 says…

44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. Matthew 5:44-45

I don’t know about you, but I’d sure have hard time being that generous. God isn’t only generous to those who obey him – God is generous even to his enemies.

It’s hard enough to be generous with my friends and family and people I like. It’s a challenge for me to fully share everything I have with my own wife & kids! But to be generous with my enemies – to be generous to people who hurt me – to be generous to people who don’t like me… Now that’s a real challenge.

Think for a minute about the person in this world who has hurt you the most – I imagine most everyone has somebody like that… Someone who has wronged you in some way. Could you give generously to that person? Would you be eager to bless them and to share your favourite things with them? That would be hard – wouldn’t it?

But that’s what God does. He gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

And just incase you think that sending the sun and the rain aren’t such a big deal – how about this…

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NIV

How’s that for being generous? While we were still self-absorbed enemies of God, Christ gave up his life for us. Not even our sin removes us from the scope of God’s generosity.

Now certainly our sin may disqualify us from many blessings – there are the natural consequences of sin and there are times when God withholds certain blessings from us in order to correct us. But even in those situations, God is eager for us to repent so the He can once again give us the full measure of his generosity.

Malachi 3 gives us a great example of this. In this case, the people of Israel had been sinning for years by not obeying God’s commands to bring their tithes and offerings to the temple to provide for the Levites who served there. So God says to them…

“You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me. 9 You are under a curse, for your whole nation has been cheating me. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test! 11 Your crops will be abundant, for I will guard them from insects and disease. Your grapes will not fall from the vine before they are ripe,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.  Malachi 3:8-11

God is so eager to once again generously pour out his blessing on these guys. Even when they were living in disobedience – they had been cheating God out of that was due to him. In order to correct them, God had removed his blessing from them – they were under a curse. But even then, you can see how eager God is to be generous to them.

“Try it! Put me to the test!  See what happens when you do things God’s way. I’m going to open heaven’s windows and bless your socks off! I’m gonna bless you so much, you can’t even handle it!”

Does that sound like a stingy God to you? No way! He is eager to be generous – even to sinners!

And you know, God’s generosity doesn’t only show up in the material things of life! There is so much more to life than just collecting material stuff! And certainly we can see God’s generosity in some of these other areas. Psalm 103 gives us a well-rounded sample of some of these things. Kings David writes in Psalm 103…

1 Let all that I am praise the Lord;

    with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.

2 Let all that I am praise the Lord;

    may I never forget the good things he does for me.

3 He forgives all my sins

    and heals all my diseases.

4 He redeems me from death

    and crowns me with love and tender mercies.

5 He fills my life with good things.

    My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!

Psalm 103:1-5

Those are six huge things that God does for us! Let me just go through those quickly.

#1. He forgives my sins! I don’t think we even understand how generous God must be in order to forgive our sins. After all the ways that we have rebelled against him. After all the times that we’ve blatantly chosen to do things our way – rather than his. After all the times that we’ve turn our back on him – even though He has done nothing but good for us….  And God still forgives all my sins… Wow. David continues…

#2. He heals all my diseases. I always marvel at how God made our bodies. We get a cut – our bodies heal up. We get a cold – our body fights it off. We break a leg, the bones fuse back together. It’s amazing! What a good God to make us that way! And even those diseases like cancer that are too much for our body to handle, God has an answer for that too. It’s kinda tied in with the next one…

3. He redeems me from death. First of all, to go back to the last one – God has promised every believer a brand new, sin-free body. It’s pretty amazing to know that when this body gives out in death, I’ve got a brand new one waiting for me that will last eternity! Because God redeems me from death. The word ‘redeem’ means to buy back. Because of my sin, death had a claim on me. It owned me. But because Jesus died on that cross in my place, God has redeemed me from death! That’s crazy generosity – taking my punishment – dying in my place so that I can live – I can’t think of anything more generous than that!  The rest of these items in this Psalm almost seem inconsequential after that… These are like the bonus items.

4. He crowns me with love and tend mercies. I think probably every one of us could sit and make quite a lengthly list of all the ways that God has shown you his love and his tender mercies – even this week.

5. He fills my life with good things. Absolutely! How many of us enjoy family, friends, ice-cream, bike rides, camping, good conversation… the list could go on and on..

6. My youth is renewed like the eagles. Maybe not so much in this life, but just imagine what it’ll be like with that new body of yours for eternity! Never tiring. Never growing old. Never wearing out.

Are you starting to see the generosity of our God? If not yet, let me show you just one more passage. Ephesians 1:3-8

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:3-8

Did you catch all that? Blessing us. Choosing us. Adopting us. Purchasing our freedom. Forgiving our sin. Showering us with kindness.

Those are not the actions of a stingy God. Those are the actions of a God so generous that it brings Him tremendous joy and delight to give us more than anything we could ever imagine.

Joao – the man who couldn’t stop giving – he’s got nothing on God. We serve a God who can’t stop giving. That’s just who He is.