We were made to be generous. In fact, scientific research has found that we are wired for sacrificial generosity. When we sacrificially give, our mood is improved; we experience better physical health; we live longer; we sleep better; we handle stress better and lessen the risk and symptoms of depression.
Being made in the image of a generous God, we are made to live generously.
So you would think this would come naturally. Yet it doesn’t.
37% of regular church attendees who identify themselves as evangelicals, don’t give to the church.
-Health Research Funding
I find this statement more heartbreaking than anything else, and it tells us we have work to do in making joyful generous disciples.
Why is this important?
Generosity flows from the heart and nature of God. We respond to God’s overwhelming generosity towards us by living generously – with all of life, with all we have and with all we are. This is the good news. ‘God so loved the world that He gave…’
‘If we do not have a heart to be generous,
we have never understood the gospel’
– Tim Keller
Why is this so hard?
It’s hard because Jesus said it would be hard. In the Parable of the seeds He tells us the worries of life, the endless pursuit of riches and pleasures choke out the seed (the Word of God) from our heart. We live in a world that wants us to focus on worry, wealth and pleasure, rather than sacrificial generosity.
Romans 12:2 tells us ‘not to copy the behaviour and customs of this world but to let God transform us into a new person by the ‘renewing of our mind’ – by changing the way we think. In this way, we will know what God wants us to do, and we will know how good and pleasing His will really is.’ (MSG)
This is how we can be transformed into joyous generous disciples – from the inside out.
Jeff Anderson in his book, ‘Plastic Donuts – Giving That Delights The Heart Of The Father’, says that there are nearly two thousand mentions of various gifts in the Bible and that only 2% of those mention the tithe. When we focus only on the tithe, we are ignoring 98 percent of God’s Word on the subject of giving. We need to teach on the extent of God’s word on giving.
- Teach that generosity works!
More than any other activity a believer does – works selfishness and greed out of our hearts. It loosens the grip that fear has on us. When we let go of the things that we are so afraid of losing, or that we fear we do not have enough of, we realize the joy and freedom that comes from trusting God and living generously. (Matt. 6:25-33)
- Teach that giving is an act of worship.
Our gifts are an offering to God, to be given joyously and cheerfully (1 Chronicles 16:29). It is how we partner with Him to heal a broken world and help those that He cares about (2 Corinthians 8:3-5).
- At its core, teach that generosity is an act of faith.
Instead of tightly clinging to our stuff, we choose to trust in the faithfulness of God. Generosity is living out what we believe, that our gifts will really store up treasures in Heaven. That we really do reap what we sow and that what I give matters and makes a difference both now and in Heaven (Matt. 6:19-21, 33).
So, what does cheerful giving actually look like?
In addition to teaching and preaching on joyous generosity, we must also help create the practices and habits of joyful generosity.
- Practice Giving –as parents and as a church. Demonstrate how you are sacrificially giving outside your home/church. Carry five or ten dollars in your pocket and ask God where to give it away. Open your homes (and hearts) to others is a tangible way to model God’s grace and heart to your neighbours.
- Talk about Giving – Talk about how living generosity is connected to God’s plan. Connect the church budget with the vision and mission that God has for your church. At home, talk about how you feel when you give. Look for opportunities each day and share where you were sacrificially generous.
- Be Generous Together – Just as when 2 or more gather in His name, I believe that when we give together God adds His grace and we do far more together than we could ever do apart. Plus, together we share in the joy of generosity (like the Macedonian Church). When we are at church, make the offering ‘a moment’. As they pass the plate, we should take time to pray and remember all that God has done – even if giving is done digitally. This is not only a call to our own hearts, but to each other and an example to our children.
I am passionate about helping our churches cultivate joyous generosity. I hope that this is helps you on your journey of generous discipleship.
Be free. Be generous.
Stewardship Development Director