If you go to church, you probably hear a lot about generosity. It’s something we know we should aspire toward as Christians. It’s something we say that we do. But how many of us truly live from a heart of generosity? Whilst it is a family value of ours, I know that this is an attitude I often need realigning. This is something I have been learning more about lately. Here are 4 steps to becoming more generous.
1.Check your motives.
We are Christ’s representatives in this world. God’s plan is that his will be done in heaven and earth. We know that ‘God so loved the world that he GAVE…’ (John 3:16). We give because when we give, we reflect the heart of God. We are sharing his love in a practical way with someone else. In being obedient to him and being generous to others, we are following the commandments to ‘love God’ and ‘love others’. “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments”. Matthew 22:36-40 NLT
We are loving God by obeying his command and we are loving others by sharing God’s blessings with them and meeting their needs.
Jesus also said this would happen when he returns to take us to be with him in heaven. He will sort the ‘legit, obedient Jesus following Christians’ from those who just talk the talk (my paraphrase). This is what he says:
““But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’ “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’ “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’ “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’ “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.””atthew 25:31-46 NLT
Look, I could cut out the bit about hell… but it’s Jesus we are quoting here. There are consequences for refusing to give, for living a selfish life and Jesus is pretty clear that whatever we do for others is a reflection of what we are doing for him.
So if you are a follower of Jesus, then you are encouraged to have a generous heart.
2. Choose your attitude.
The second step to becoming more generous is to choose your attitude.
My sister Mia is such a joyful giver. Whenever someone’s birthday comes up, she researches different gift options and asks what they want. She doesn’t just give something because she has to. She wants to get the person an awesome gift that they will love and use. She takes care to select the best gift for that person’s needs and receiving a present from her is truly always such a delight.
On the other hand, I know I have been guilty of rustling around at the last minute trying to find something to give … because, well… it’s their birthday and so I have to give something right? I give the gift but it isn’t something I’m proud to give. I feel bad that I didn’t give something better and I am sure the receiver isn’t blessed as much as they could have been had I put more thought into the gift and given cheerfully rather than out of compulsion.
We don’t give because we feel like we have to or that we should. We should give because we want to. Because we can see the way God has blessed us and we want his blessing to flow out into our hearts. The Bible puts it this way:
“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.” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV)
If you are giving because you feel like you have to, then your heart isn’t pleasing to God. Consider Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.
“Abel was a herdsman and Cain a farmer. Cain brought an offering to God from the produce of his farm. Abel also brought an offering, but from the firstborn animals of his herd, choice cuts of meat. God liked Abel and his offering, but Cain and his offering didn’t get his approval. Cain lost his temper and went into a sulk.” (Genesis 4:2-5 MSG).
Abel gave generously and gave to God the best of what he has. Cain still gave, but he didn’t do it with a generous heart. It was just because he had to. Because his heart wasn’t in the right place, his gift wasn’t pleasing to God.
3. Be intentional.
Maybe if Gift Giving is your main Love Languages like it is for Mia, then this comes very naturally to you. If it’s not, it might be something you need to work on. Ask God to open your eyes to the people around you who are in need. And then ask him to show you how you can meet their need. Once you have identified a need and how it can be met, make sure you do it!
“Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!”
2 Corinthians 9:6-9, 15 NLT
4. Put it in your schedule:
Would you like to donate to a charity? Did you know that most charities let you donate regular amounts. As soon as I got a job, I sat down with my budget and figured out how much I wanted to give. At that time, I gave to my local church, Compassion Australia and Open Doors every month. I set up direct debit payments so that my donating was on a schedule and my money matched my priorities. So often we mean well but we never get around to actually giving.
In every day life, one of the ways I like to give is by delivering a bag of groceries or treats to someone when they are sick or have had a new baby. I plan it so that while I am at the grocery store, I will take an extra bag. I will buy two of some things and while I am there, I will select some special treats that I think they might like. Either on my way home or later that day, I drop it off at their house. It doesn’t add much time to my day and I am able to integrate it into what I am already doing. You might need to plan for it. You might even need to budget for it. But make sure you are intentional or you will find yourself making excuses for why you can’t give. (Trust me, I’ve done that too!)
Bonus tip: Just do it!
Stop worrying and just do something. It doesn’t have to be grand. It could be $5 paying for someone’s coffee. It’s not about what you do, it’s all about the heart behind it.
I’d love to hear in the comments below, how do you plan to bless someone this week?