Americans, per capita, are the wealthiest people on earth. It is said of us that we are also the most generous people on earth. From the experiences I have encountered in this life, I would have to agree. For the most part, Americans are pretty generous.
But is generosity all that God requires of us in this realm of giving? While I believe God requires us to be generous, I also believe that God’s standards are higher than just the world’s standards of generosity. You see, God not only sees our generosity and giving, but He also sees our hearts.
I want to give you four tips that can help develop a Christian’s heart of generosity.
We need to be marked by our generosity. Have you ever considered how generous God is? As Christians, we are to reflect God in our world—that is, we should display the attitudes, attributes, and affections of God. If God is generous, we should also be generous.
For ages, the church has been marked by its benevolence and its care for the poor, the widows, the needy, and the sick.
The parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke, chapter 10, is a good example:
But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’
What I find curious about this story is not that two religious men of this man’s own nationality walked by, or that a despised foreigner was the one who actually did something; rather, I find it fascinating how generous this foreigner was.
He picked up the guy who was probably pretty nasty after having been beat up; he took time out of his own schedule to do it. He then took him to an inn to take care of his needs out of his own expenses, and even paid for his stay—plus a couple more days!—and promised to cover whatever expenses were incurred when he would return to check on the man once again.
That’s some generosity. Then look at Jesus’ final words, “Go and do likewise.” We too are to be marked by our generosity toward others.
In my days, I have met two kinds of “would-be” generous people. The first group are humble people: they don’t want anyone to really know what or how much they give. They desire to give their gifts quietly and secretly purely for the good and joy that it will bring to others or the church.
Then there is a second group. These folks want pats on the back: public recognition for every little thing the door give. In a book I was reading by George Barna—the Christian statistics guru—he said, “One of the disciplines of a mature Christian is to receive joy from giving without being publicly recognized for that giving.”
What Jesus is telling us is that we must give with a right heart. If our goal is to be praised and have people give recognition when we give, we have given for the wrong reasons.
Those who grew up in the Great Depression, or shortly thereafter, understood sacrifice. They understood what it meant to go without so that someone else could go with.
My dad said he remembers that, during the Depression, there were some pretty tight days that his father would have all the kids join together and go pick wild berries, just so that they could have something to as a family to give to the church to help support it during those hard days. He told me that it left an incredible impression about the importance of giving sacrificially to those in need.
A sacrifice is giving beyond our means to God in such a manner that we will have to give something up in order to do it.
Set an example
My mom used to use a phrase that just drove me nuts. She would say (especially when my little brother was around): “little eyes are watching”. Have you ever been given that warning? I hated that phrase. It was so manipulative and coercive—but why I hated it most is because it was true. Give it a couple of minutes and the very same thing I was just doing—there would be my little brother doing it. Those days are long gone, but the little eyes are still watching. Only, this time it isn’t my little brother: it’s my own children.
It is almost scary to realize how much a reflection your own children are of you. The funny thing is—usually they mirror the worst parts of our behavior (or at least that is what we see).
When it comes to our generosity and giving—even if done secretly—we are setting an example to others. Although you may be able to conceal the size of your gift, you will never be able to conceal a generous heart. I think that is why giving should be done with joy as well. A stingy giver really hasn’t given, but a joyful giver gives more than just money.
Our attitude in generosity sets an example to those who are watching. For us, it is not just children watching: there are plenty of other adults watching as well. If you claim to be a Christian and love God, yet you are stingy with your co-workers, your stinginess speaks much louder then your Christian profession. Realize you are setting an example by your generosity.
Invest in the future
We are so trapped in “the now”. I suppose that many of us live paycheck-to-paycheck, or, at best, we are one paycheck ahead if we are lucky. We are constantly attempting to keep our heads above water in the here and the now. Our primary concern is survival of today, this week, or at least this month.
We buy things that make our lives easier, happier, and supposedly more joyful. We invest in opportunities that bring pleasure for a season. But God presents us with an interesting challenge. He suggests that our investment should not be in the temporary, but rather be invested in the eternal. God’s desire is that we use our earthly resources to invest in those things which will last forever.
Again, this is where the heart comes in first and the gift itself comes in second. The heart of a godly giver is looking for things that have eternal rewards. Giving to ministries, giving to missionaries, giving to the church whether it be your time, your talents, your money should be seen as an eternal investment.
We should look at all our giving as an investment in eternity. The money you give to missions, the church, or other ministries is not money just thrown away as the world would see it; rather, it is an investment in a heavenly eternal kingdom—and one day, we will enjoy the fruit of that investment.
My hope and my prayer is not that we will be more generous, but rather that we will have a heart of generosity. Seeing your generous spirit is a encouragement to me. It is also a huge challenge to me—to have as generous a heart.