I lived most of my life as a cultural Christian, which meant I strived to be a good person, a good citizen, but had yet to truly follow Christ. During that time I understood generosity to mean that I should be a giver, that I shouldn’t keep everything for myself. I learned giving was the right thing to do. It was both culturally acceptable and encouraged. I saw this all the time, even in the workplace with United Way campaigns and other opportunities to give, especially during this time of year. However, this type of generosity often results from giving out of the excess, simply living our lives like we want and doing the right thing by giving to others or to causes if we have something left over.
Once I became a Christ-follower I began to hear more of the Bible’s teachings on giving and generosity, and my understanding expanded a bit. Generosity was still encouraged by people around me like those in my community and my employer, but now it was encouraged by the church as well. I thought generosity still resulted from the giving out of the excess, but I had at least come to recognize that God was responsible for the excess. He was the one that had given me the resources in the first place that provided the opportunity for generosity, and I knew I should give out of what He had given me.
Both of these understandings of generosity resulted in giving, which was good. However, neither was biblical, though one at least seemed a little more biblical. In fact, they might have even been idolatrous. The focus of that type of generosity wasn’t on glorifying God, or even helping others. It was on me, the giver. It was so easy to say, “Look what I did. I gave something of mine.”
Biblical generosity is a completely different kind. You come to understand that all that you have isn’t even yours to begin with. It’s God’s. We are all simply stewards. So, when we give, we really are not giving anything. Rather, we are giving of what is God’s in order to bless someone on behalf of God that they might glorify God. Biblical generosity isn’t about us or even others. It’s about Him.
So, as a steward of all that God has entrusted to us, let’s pray for Him to develop in us His heart, His vision, and His love, and give in that way, selflessly and sacrificially.
That’s the journey I’m on, to prayerfully arrive at biblical generosity. I’m not there yet, but am encouraged to follow Christ there with all of you.
Jim Warren and his wife, Betty, have been members of The Church at Brook Hills since 2009. They lead a small group in their home, and Jim serves our faith family as an Elder.