When I was a child, my mother earned a very small income, and it had to be stretched to pay for the basics of life—food, clothing, and shelter. That’s why I couldn’t understand her generosity. When kids dropped by asking for something to eat, she always shared what we had even if it was only a slice of bread. I remember thinking that if she kept giving our food away, we wouldn’t have enough to eat, but we always did.
At that young age, I didn’t know about the security of generosity. For those of us who have trusted Jesus as Savior and Lord, we have no reason to fear that sharing what we have with others will result in our own deprivation. We have a loving heavenly Father who is committed to caring for His children, so we never need to worry or fear.
However, we live in a world that doesn’t know God as Father, where people often have a different way of looking at life. They become trapped in a mindset that says: Get all you can and keep it for yourself. Furthermore, we are all born with a sinful, self-centered nature. It comes naturally to look out primarily for ourselves. But as Christians, we are called to think biblically and reject worldly philosophies that lead us away from God. That’s why generosity is so important; it challenges us to think and act contrary to worldly beliefs and rely instead on what the Lord says in His Word.
First, we should be generous because God is generous. “He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:25). There is nothing stingy about God. When He created the earth, He placed in it everything we need for physical life along with abundant delights. What’s more, Scripture says God is full of lovingkindness, truth, comfort, knowledge, wisdom, and power. But His greatest display of generosity is in the salvation of those who turn to His Son for freedom from sin. Paul says our salvation is “according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us” (Eph. 1:7-8). And we, as children of such a Father, should be generous as well, giving even to our enemies, “expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35).
Second, we can be generous because God is our sufficiency. Our hope is not in the uncertainty of riches but in the Lord who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17). With this truth as our foundation there’s no reason to cling tightly to wealth or possession. Instead we are set free “to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share” as God desires (v. 18).
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul further emphasizes God’s sufficiency with this amazing promise: “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed” (2 Cor. 9:8). Notice all the superlatives that describe the Lord’s commitment to those who give generously. We need never let our fears quench generosity and faith in God’s promise to provide.
Third, we ought to be generous because God’s ways are best. Although the world promotes the accumulation of wealth, true riches aren’t measured by material or financial abundance but by spiritual riches. This contrast is pictured in Proverbs 11:24-28 with two different types of farmers. One scatters his seed in order to produce a harvest that will feed many, whereas the other farmer hoards his grain in hopes of driving up the price to make a bigger profit. But God says, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf” (v. 28).
Fourth, God uses generosity to conform us into Christ’s image. Liberality weans us from love of the world and its pleasures and pursuits and frees us to serve Christ. Jesus warned that no one can serve two masters—God and wealth—for he will hate one and love the other (Matt. 6:24).
Our generosity contributes to the ministry and mission of the church by displaying Christ’s love to a watching world and showing His power to change us. When Christian communities care for each other as well as those outside church walls, they demonstrate God’s generous and compassionate nature and bring Him glory: “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
Generosity is a selfless lifestyle that is God-focused and other-centered. Contrary to what the world says, there is more joy to be found in giving with the right heart than in accumulating more for ourselves.
My mother knew that generosity is not just for the wealthy but should be the attitude and practice of everyone. She saw the needs of those around her as an opportunity to serve the Lord, not as a threat to her financial security. Generosity begins by first giving ourselves to the Lord, trusting Him to provide as we open our hands and hearts to share whatever we have with others.
Charles F. Stanley
P.S. In many ways, Christians are called to live counterculturally, and this is certainly true when it comes to generosity. That’s why it’s wise to examine ourselves to see if we are being influenced more by God’s amazing promises or the world’s philosophies. His truths are timeless and always waiting to be discovered.