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But, if we live our lives the way our culture promotes, we will never be the generous people God wants us to be.
The Challenge of Being Generous
One of the most beautiful things we will see in life is people who display generosity. Some of the most memorable stories in the Bible are about people who were generous.
Wherever Jesus' gospel is preached throughout the world, he wanted people to hear the story of the woman who anointed him with expensive oil before his crucifixion (Matthew 26:6-13). Some say her gift of oil was worth a year’s wages. In any case, her gift to Jesus was so generous and outlandish that his own disciples were indignant when they saw what she had done. They thought her generosity was wasteful.
Consider also the widow at Zarephath. She thought she and her son were going to die because of the famine in the land (1 Kings 17:7-16). Elijah assured her that if she shared her small resources with him God would take care of her. As one author wrote years ago about the poor lady sharing her meal and oil with Elijah, ‘The meal and oil was multiplied not in the hoarding but in the giving.’
Similarly, when David was gathering materials for Solomon to build the temple to God, he challenged the leaders by asking, ‘Who is willing to consecrate himself to the Lord?’ (I Chronicles 29:5). In response, the leaders who had consecrated themselves to God ‘gave willingly.’ As the people saw the generosity of their leaders, they ‘rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord’ (29:9). David freely acknowledged that the reason the leaders and people could be generous was because everything they had was from God.
When you think of generosity maybe you think of the widow Jesus commended for giving more than the others at the temple because ‘out of her poverty, she put in all she had to live on’ (Luke 21:1-4). Or you may think of the example of the Macedonian churches who ‘…out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.’ (2 Corinthians 8:1-3)
The Bible is full of verses commending and commanding generosity. The Bible also reveals examples of God’s people being greedy: Achan in Joshua 7; and Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.
Today, commercials on television, the internet, and other places tell us we need more. They tell us we deserve more and we should have whatever we want. They tell us to buy stuff and put the purchases on our credit cards or borrow money to pay for them. But, if we live our lives the way our culture promotes, we will never be the generous people God wants us to be.
I have taught a 'Personal and Family Finance' class at Oklahoma Christian University for around 18 years now. One of my goals is to have students know that God has blessed them with the money they have and one of the purposes of their money is to bless other people.
One of the things we do as part of the class is to create a budget. The budget form I hand out to the students begins with ‘Giving’ at the top of the form. Most Christians believe God wants us to be generous. But often we don’t plan on being generous or to give back to God who has given us the gifts, talents, and opportunities to make money.
Instead, we usually start our financial decisions with the house we want to live in, then we decide what cars we want to drive, and what holiday we’d like to take. Often we have committed our funds to these items first before considering generously what amount we want to give back to God and what funds we have available to assist others in need. If we don’t prioritise our giving to God and others in our budgets, then there’ll be no money left to give.
The truth is that we can spend all our money on things that are not sinful, not immoral or wrong – and still end up having nothing left to give to God. If we want to be generous people we need to avoid overcommitting our funds to things that will keep us from being generous. There’s nothing wrong with having a nice house, car, holiday, etc. But if we have a house, car, and a holiday that keeps us from being generous, then perhaps it’s time that we consider whether we need to downsize or think twice before we buy more things.
Let’s remember what Paul told the young evangelist, Timothy, when talking to people who had wealth: ‘Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.’ (I Timothy 6:18-19, italics added)
Several studies have been done among religious groups in America over the past few years. Statistics say the average church member gives 1.8% to 2.4% of their money to their church or missions. What could be done in churches if people gave 10%, 15% or 20% of their income to local churches and God’s work?
If we want to be generous people, we will have to do what the Macedonian churches did: ‘…they gave themselves first to the Lord’ (2 Corinthians 8:5). Then we will prioritise being generous in our budgets before everything else has consumed our funds.
I end this article by saying that our thoughts and prayers are with Australia and the people and Christians there – especially those affected by the bushfires. May the generosity of Australians (especially the Christians there) shine during this period. God’s blessings upon you all.
Kent and Nancy Hartman worked as missionaries in Sydney, Australia for 17.5 years. Kent teaches in the Bible Department at Oklahoma Christian University. email@example.com