Practicing Generosity as an Act of Faith
Embracing a lifestyle of true generosity is difficult. We all tend to live pretty close-fisted. We are suspicious of anyone who encourages us to give away what’s ours. We don’t doubt that Christians should practice generosity, but what we really want to know is how generous?
It’s an area where we want to live under the Law—we want someone to simply spell it out for us. How much do we have to give to keep God happy? It’s so much easier to be given an expectation than to be told, “give as much you can.”
What if I told you that Jesus encourages a generosity that borders on foolishness, and is motivating you with the promise of reward? It’s true. God doesn’t want you to give out of fear or guilt, he wants you to live charitably out of faith.
The Faith to Change Your Perspective
In Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he talks about developing an “abundance mentality”—as opposed to the “scarcity mentality” that assumes there’s only so much to go around, and if I don’t get it, someone else will. The abundance mentality:
“…flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.”
The abundance mentality is also the key to generosity. The book of Proverbs tells us:
“Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed,
for he shares his bread with the poor.”
If you see the world with a bountiful eye, if you believe that God is generous and intimately involved in caring and providing for you, you will share what you have. You won’t feel the need to hoard and hide it. You know there’s enough to go around.
Alternatively, if you see any aspect of your life, time, or resources through a lens of famine, you will hold tightly to everything you possess.
The first key to practicing generosity is trusting that the God is in control of an infinite supply of whatever you need, and can multiply what you are willing to give him.
The free online book, Start With Generosity, has been an excellent resource for others hoping to learn more about how God approaches generosity. These real-life stories are written by and for people just like you, and it’s amazing to see what God does through them. Click here to download it today.
The Faith to Invest
It’s amazing how often scripture links God’s promise of reward to our benevolence. It happens so frequently that it’s almost easy to understand how someone could fall for a false teaching like the “prosperity gospel.”
As we look at these promises, two simple facts keep our understanding of “blessing” in check:
- God’s promise of reward isn’t entirely temporal. Some of our compensation will be experienced when we’re standing before him: “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” (Rev. 22:12).
- If God does bless us now, it’s not to increase our standard of living. It’s because we’ve proven ourselves to be good stewards with what he’s given us, and he wants to give us the opportunity to be more generous. It’s part of the “faithful with little, faithful with much” principle (Luke 16:10).
It’s almost as if God’s creation has a law of reciprocity woven into its very fabric. It’s obvious from Scripture that those who freely give will freely receive:
“One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
and one who waters will himself be watered.”
But this law seems to apply across the board to everyone, and not just to believers. Many studies prove that those who are generous with their time, abilities, and resources are happier, healthier, make you want to be more generous, give you a stronger marriage, and make you live longer.
It’s just as true that withholding, stockpiling, and generally acting like a miser make you feel less secure and happy. It’s like taking putting a crimp in the hose that delivers the world’s best to you.
“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself call out and not be answered.”
This is a principle and not a promise. The point isn’t that God will ignore you if you don’t respond to every need. It expresses an axiom about how the world operates. If you generally hold back from responding to the needy, you’re going to receive what you give.
Jesus Is Keeping Accounts
Beyond the general “need-a-penny/take-a-penny” nature of altruism is an even more profound truth. God is keeping an account of your generosity and intends to repay you.
“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will repay him for his deed.”
If Jesus asked to borrow a couple of bucks from you, would you give it to him? Do you think he’s good for it? When you’re generous to the needy, you are literally loaning that money to Christ. I kind of think he overpays his debts.
Jesus goes on to say:
“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
It turns out that Christ is keeping pretty exacting accounts—down to the glasses of water handed out to the thirsty. It’s hard to fathom how our lives would change if we sincerely believed that there’s a divine excel sheet with our name on it and a reward for every act of kindness.
It seems that if we really believed these things, generosity would be our most obvious trait. You’d think that generosity would be one of those characteristics that separated those who believe in the God of the Bible and those that didn’t. The world would look at us and marvel about what would make us give so lavishly and fearlessly.
Faith to Give
When it comes down to it, practicing generosity requires faith. In fact, it might be the best way to gauge how strong our faith is. Do I believe enough to make sacrifices because I believe that I’m not really losing anything?
Our generous God doesn’t want to motivate you through guilt and fear. He’s inviting you to put your faith in him, to test him. He promises that “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6).