Growing up, I often resented my mother because of her generosity towards family members. One aunt in particular often took advantage of her and we consequently suffered financial hardship. This happened frequently, and I always marveled that my mother was so good toward people whom I considered undeserving. In fact, I was outraged by her generosity. And I often protested.
In Scripture, God’s generosity often generated outrage in those who should have been partnering with him in showing his goodness to the world. Jonah protested God’s generosity towards the Assyrians (Jon 4:1-11). The older son complained about his father’s generosity towards his prodigal brother (Lk 15:11-32). The first hired workers in Jesus’ parable complained about the householder’s generosity towards the eleventh-hour workers (Matt 20:1-16). The Pharisees and scribes objected to Jesus’ generosity towards Matthew (Lk 5:27-32) and Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10), two tax collectors.
As the movement of Jesus’ followers expanded toward the Gentiles, complaints arose among those of “the circumcision party” (Acts 11:1-3; 11:22; 15:1, 5; Gal 2:11-15). Cornelius, a Roman centurion, along with some relatives and close friends, “was baptized in the name of Jesus” by Peter and some “brothers from Joppa” (Acts 10). This generated criticism from a group of believers from Judea (Acts 11:1-3).
As the message about Jesus reached non-Jews living in Antioch, “a great number who believed turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21). The addition of Gentiles to the church in Antioch seems to have generated some concern among Jewish believers in Judea because when word reached “the ears of the church in Jerusalem, they sent Barnabas to Antioch” (vs 22).
As Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel among Jews and Gentiles in Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, Antioch of Pisidia, Perga, Pamphylia and Cyprus, many believed (Acts 13-14). There was celebration in Antioch as “they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). However, “some men [believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees] came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’” (Acts 15:5).
Someone could have potentially complained about the thief on the cross (Lk 23:26-43). What if you had been the victim of this thief’s criminal activity? Would you have celebrated the fact that Jesus promised he would be in paradise? And what about Manasseh, who “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chron 33:2)? He “burned his sons as an offering in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom…He did much evil in the sight of the Lord…” (2 Chron 33:6). He “led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel” (2 Chron 33:9). “Manasseh shed very much innocent blood” (2 Kgs 21:16), including the prophet Isaiah’s. But the Bible records, “And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God” (2 Chron 33:10-13). Would you have celebrated or grumbled over God’s generosity toward Manasseh?