Being Generous Givers

The bible speaks often of being generous givers. For instance:

Psalm 37:21 – “The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives…”

Psalm 112:5 – “It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice.”

Proverbs 19:17 – “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”

1 Timothy 6:18-19 – “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (‘they’ are the rich)

Throughout Scripture we see this command to give generously, both to the poor and to God’s work. But what exactly does it mean to be generous? Dictionary.com provides this definition: “liberal in giving or sharing; unselfish.” Okay, so we’re supposed to give liberally and unselfishly. Fair enough. But that’s still pretty vague, and I can find all kinds of ways to justify my actions as being “liberal” and “unselfish” when they probably aren’t.

So, let’s go to two quick examples of generosity. First, let’s turn to Mark 12:41-44. There Jesus teaches us about giving from the example of a widow –

And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

A few observations:

1. Giving is not about the gross, it’s about the net. Kurt Warner gave millions of dollars to his church in St. Louis while he played for the Rams. That is a large gift, and dare I say, a generous one. But he was giving out of a much larger pool of money. I don’t say that to belittle what Warner gave, on the contrary I admire him for what appears to be genuine generosity. However, according to this passage, many people who live below the poverty line could be as generous if not more so than him. That’s because it’s not as much about the number as it is the ratio. We don’t need to be rich to be generous.

2. This woman was commended because “she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all that she had to live on.” Why would she do this? Why would she give away what would essentially be her rent money? Because she believed two fundamental things: (1) That she is dependent upon God for her life, whether she can pay her rent or not, and (2) that what she has really isn’t hers to begin with…it’s God’s.

But the most helpful quote I’ve heard on being generous comes from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. It has shaped my heart in profound ways, maybe it will do the same for you:

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusement, etc., is up to the same standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our giving does not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say it is too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our commitment to giving excludes them.

At the end of the day being generous is a matter of personal priority. Who is more important, who is more valuable? You? Your friends? Your God? As long as we keep ourselves in the number one spot, it will be impossible for us to be givers who do so with generous hearts.

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