What gets purple-clad bishops giving out sweet treats to bemused rail commuters? Or schoolchildren from Exeter to Dumfries paying each other compliments? Or gardens weeded, chocolate distributed, barriers removed, love exchanged, and reconciliations made?

The answer is simple. It’s the gospel, of course.

We receive so that we can give, and give because we have received.

We receive so that we can give, and give because we have received. And at every stage of the adventure we find ourselves led by God himself, invited to join in His work with Him as He propels us out to do the work of His kingdom among the people He created. The rich and the poor, the socially desirable and the hard to love. God invites us to look upon them all the way He does, with generous love.

Lent remembers the ultimate act of selfless love on the cross, so we think it’s the perfect opportunity to show the generosity of Jesus to our friends, family and neighbours. Inspired by Jesus, 40acts is an online campaign that encourages people to see Lent as an opportunity to give out as much as they give up.

For each one of the forty days in the run-up to Easter, a movement of people make time in their day for 40acts’ Bible-based reflection, twinned with a generous challenge to benefit others. First they read, then they act.

Over the last eight years 40acts has helped tens of thousands of people take a risk with their faith. For some that has meant giving out chocolate to strangers on a crowded commuter train, while for others the act of embracing generosity has stirred deep waters. Like the Muslim man who wrote to say that signing up to 40acts had played a key role in helping him learn to admire the Christian faith and become more tolerant. Then there was the girl in her 20s in Northern Ireland who came back to faith as 40acts created something that was relevant, community-based and focused on others.

The answer is simply that the economy of God doesn’t work the same way that our lives may do.

Why does it work? The answer is simply that the economy of God doesn’t work the same way that our lives may do. Financial wealth can sometimes drive us away from each other; to live in bigger houses, to move into nicer neighbourhoods, to eat in better restaurants and to take nicer holidays – all of which bring us into contact with a narrower range of people. Living this way, eventually we can end up only mixing with those who are like us.

But God does things differently. Look at the early Church, where a diverse range of believers shared what they had. Persecuted and under threat, they did not retreat or close themselves off. Instead they chose to live in true generosity and grew exponentially.

Persecuted and under threat, they did not retreat or close themselves off.

If 40acts has achieved anything that could be considered a success, it is thanks only to the infectious nature of God’s generosity, and the courage and enthusiasm of everyday Christians who have decided to take a risk and say “yes” to God – turning observers into givers, and strangers into receivers.

“I have become much more aware of trying to be a generous person and more aware of other people,” says Debbie Wright, who first came up with the idea for 40acts. “In everything – chance encounters, family, church life, friends – I find now that I have a slightly different mind-set.

“I find it terribly sad that we live in such a self-centred world. Look at the Lord’s Prayer. It’s our Father, not my Father. I see 40acts as a way of living the gospel that is practical, scary, exciting and exhilarating all at the same time.”

To see how you could generously share the gospel in word and deed this Lent, sign up for 40acts.