The Generosity of Freedom
What is the mark of true freedom, and how we can live it out?
One of the most memorable images of recent movie experience is that of Mel Gibson portraying William Wallace in Braveheart. He inspires his soldiers to fight for their country. “Tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!” At the end of the movie his shout of “freedom” stirred everyone in the theatre.
"Freedom" has been the cry of thousands of oppressed people throughout history, and "freedom" has been the cry of believers throughout the ages. Some have known the tyranny of physical and emotional oppression, but all know the tyranny of fear and the despair that sin can bring.
“For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14 NLT)
"It is one thing to have the door to our prisons cells opened, it is quite another to walk outside beyond the confines of the walls that we were born into."
And now we are free: free from unattainable perfection, unyielding laws, fear of death, fear of rejection, fear of failure. We are free to live as sons and daughters, with confidence and hope. There is no longer any condemnation.
“God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.” (Galatians 4:5 NLT)
This desire for freedom is as strong as life itself and we have been given it as a free gift. It is precious and outrageous at the same time — outrageous grace indeed! However, it is one thing to have the door to our prisons cells opened, it is quite another to walk outside beyond the confines of the walls that we were born into.
“There is a greater form of freedom: freedom from the internal constraints of fear and selfishness.”
“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13 NLT)
If we are called to live in freedom, as the scripture above tells us, then what should that look like? How can we measure the extent to which we have walked out of our prison, or the extent to which we still live in it?
If I asked you to name one trait that would mark a person who was truly free what would that be? A charismatic Christian might suggest, “Freedom to worship as we chose,” or “freedom to follow the leading of the Spirit.” An Evangelical might say, “Freedom to read and interpret scriptures.” Most would say, “Freedom to gather as believers.” However, these are all freedoms from outside constraints or interference. There is a greater form of freedom: freedom from the internal constraints of fear and selfishness. Let me offer you my opinion that the greatest mark of freedom is GENEROSITY.
A generous person is truly a free person. Nothing confines a generous person. Money does not control him (or her), nor fear of the future, so he can be free with all of his resources. Fear of failure does not oppress a free person. He will step out on new adventures or support others in their adventures without any guarantee of success or even the desire for it. Freedom from the need for man’s praise leads us to be generous with our encouragement of others. We are free to lavish praise and inspiration on others, because we have no need to store some for ourselves. Paul commends the believers in Macedonia for their generosity in the midst of poverty. Through faith in Christ they had broken out of the prison of their circumstances and demonstrated their freedom by their generous gift to the church in Jerusalem.
“While they were being severely tested by suffering, their overflowing joy, along with their extreme poverty, has made them even more generous.” (2 Corinthians 8:2 GWT)
“Do we dare to examine our lives against the measure of God’s generosity and see just how far outside the prison we are living?”
Today we are tired of hearing of yet another scandal highlighting the self-indulgence of fat expense accounts, overblown bonuses and the me-first agenda. The world is hungry to see a people who are so free from greed and self-preservation that their lives overflow with generosity. Listen to this account of one generous act and the response it elicited:
"Students in the Transitional Life Skills class in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee, worked hard to raise money for an overnight trip to Tybee Island, Galveston, in 2011. Some of them had never been to the beach before, and the class was thrilled to be going. But when they heard about a boy in Bridgepost, Alabama, who died in a tornado that year, they decided to donate the $2,000 to his family instead (reports the Chattanooga Times Free Press). All of the students live below poverty level (reports Savannahnow.com). It didn't take long for news of their donation to get out though, and soon the school was bombarded with offers to help the students go on that trip. They got money for the bus ride, a free two-night stay at a hotel and free restaurant meals. They had dinner with the mayor of Tybee Island, and the town named a day in their honor."
These students were free from the need to have the holiday they had saved for and their freedom resulted in generosity. That generosity touched hundreds who in turn wanted to celebrate “free generosity”.
“It is for freedom that we have been set free, free to be generous with all we are and all we have in Christ.”
Wouldn’t it be amazing if the church was known for its generosity, that the greatest tips given to the local restaurant were by people coming out of church on Sundays? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the church was known as the most generous place of forgiveness? Do we dare to examine our lives against the measure of God’s generosity and see just how far outside the prison we are living?
I imagine the Father always intended that the greatest love and grace would be offered by believers freed from their own prisons of failure, so when asked for the reason for this generosity they could simply reply, “Because Christ has set us free.” It is for freedom that we have been set free, free to be generous with all we are and all we have in Christ.
“I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.” (Philemon 1:4-6 NLT)