Let me ask you a question, “Do you consider yourself to be a generous person?” If you are like most people, then you answered “Yes.” Maybe you feel generous because you give regularly to good causes, serve food to the homeless, or at times pay for the person behind you in the drive-thru. Perhaps you feel generous because you faithfully tithe 10% to your local church. All of these are good things to do, but are they good indicators of being a generous person?
The Bible provides some clear criteria for knowing whether you are a generous person and how you can become one. Here are some characteristics of true generosity:
True generosity gives the first to God. When you receive a paycheck or any other source of income, giving to the Lord should be your first and top priority. Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” Generous people recognize all they possess belongs to God, and so they give to Him their first and their best.
True generosity gives in proportion to your income. Jesus taught us this when He said, “…from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). A tithe, or 10% of your income, is a good starting point for determining the amount you give. But Jesus didn’t limit the amount to a particular number. We should give more or less in proportion to how much God blesses us with.
True generosity gives systematically. Generosity is not a feeling or simply giving a few bucks to someone as a random act of kindness. Being generous is a lifestyle. That’s what Paul is getting at when he writes to the church in Corinth, “On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up…” (1 Corinthians 16:2). Generous people give regularly in accordance with what they have decided ahead of time to do.
True generosity gives sacrificially. Jesus’ model for generosity was a widow who gave her last penny. One day Jesus was at the temple watching some wealthy people give their offering, but then a poor widow came to give only two small coins. He told His disciples, “This poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:3-4). Generous people understand the amount sacrificed always supersedes amount given.
True generosity gives cheerfully. Generous people want to give as an act of worship in response to who God is and all that He’s done. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” We should not give grudgingly out of guilt or obligation. Generosity is giving thoughtfully, voluntarily and with a joyful spirit.
God does not ask of us anything that He has not first done for us. The most famous verse in the Bible begins, “For God so loved the world that He gave…” (John 3:16). God is the ultimate model for true generosity. You and I are made in the image of God and we are most like Him when we give. Together, let’s take our next step to becoming the generous person God has made us to be.
Take your next step to becoming the generous person God has called you to be by participating in an upcoming Legacy Journey class. Learn how to manage your wealth responsibly and share it to make an impact in the lives of the Kingdom of God for generations to come during this 7-week class.
Last year my wife and I made the decision to reduce our summer family vacation budget by twenty-five percent. With a little planning we were able to return to our favorite destination by changing accommodations and eating out at different restaurants. The condo we rented didn’t come with an ocean-view, but it was nicely furnished and only five-hundred yards from the beach. I was quite content getting up early, eating breakfast and enjoying an extended quiet-time on the garden-view patio of our condo. That is, until I saw my Pastor friend’s social media post: “Not a bad place for my Quiet Time” with a picture taken from his ocean view vacation rental. How’s that for a contentment buster? Next thing you know I’m comparing my vacation to his vacation and questioning our new budget.
We live in a culture of constant comparison. We measure ourselves against the people around us to determine our success. A mom looks at Pinterest, and comes away with her greatest fears confirmed: her kids look shabby, her house looks dumpy, and her clothes look frumpy. A dad feels okay with his paid-for 10-year-old carpet-stained mini-van until he gets in the carpool line behind someone driving a brand new luxury SUV. According to your social-media feed, your monotonous boring existence is a poor excuse for living when you compare it to others whose lives are apparently exciting all the time. The temptation to compare yourself to others is lurking around every corner.
Comparison is a game everybody plays, but nobody ever wins. If you are tired of playing the comparison game and struggling with contentment, then maybe it’s time to make a few changes. The Bible has a lot to say about this topic. Here are four practices that will move you towards a life of greater contentment.
1. Be grateful for what you do have.
Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, reflect on what you do have and thank God for it. There is no room for discontentment in a heart filled with gratitude. If you struggle with contentment, then you might consider starting a gratitude journal. Build a running list of the things you are grateful for by adding 2 or 3 entries every day. You will be less likely to compare when you are reminded of all that God has given you.
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess. 5:18)
2. Give what you have to help others.
Be willing to share what God has given you with others. It’s hard to be preoccupied with what you don’t have, when you are busy serving someone in need. Find ways to give your time, money and talents to make a difference in someone else’s life.
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:38)
3. Celebrate the success of others.
Be excited for others when they succeed. Stop thinking, “I wish it were me” and start saying, “I’m happy for you.” There isn’t much room for jealousy and envy in your heart when you are cheering someone on. We are a part of the body of Christ, so we all win when they win. We shouldn’t hesitate to celebrate when others are blessed.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Cor. 12:26)
4. Put your hope in God, not in achievements or material possessions.
Have you ever found yourself thinking, “If I could just get that (job, house, spouse, college degree, etc.), I would be happier”? Usually, you find yourself wanting more after achieving that goal. Placing your hope in “things” will never fully and finally satisfy. No matter how much money you have, what kind of house you own or what job you have, nothing can fulfill you the way Jesus can. He is the only one who can fill that desire in you for something more. God created you in such a way that all your desires will be met in Him alone.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:12-13)
Comparing yourself to others is a hard habit to break. Next time you find yourself getting trapped again by comparison, turn to God who gives you the strength to be the person He is calling you to be.
Our new class, The Generosity Experience will take you on a six-week journey of learning how to love where you are through acts of kindness and generosity, identifying and serving people who are broke and broken by the messiness of life.
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