How does one measure generosity? Over the last 50 plus years, I’ve had the privilege of giving large amounts of my time, my talent and my treasures, or finances, to lots of causes, people, and churches. But does that make me generous? This is a question I’ve asked myself many times as I’ve struggled to define what generosity looks like. As is the case for so many followers of Christ, my overarching goal is to be a good distributor and faithful steward of all God has given me. Yet defining what generosity will look like in my own life is something with which I wrestle even as I head into the final season of my life. Let me explain.
To begin, there is no set amount or percentage that could determine whether we are generous or not. It’s important to note that our own opinion doesn’t really matter. This is a God thing that each of us must settle in our own hearts. And let me emphatically state the necessity to be careful as we do so. Why, may you ask? Because I believe all of us wrestle with being selfish.
Confronting our Selfishness
I’ll use myself as an example. I take very good care of providing just about everything I want. In fact, when I admit just how well I take care of myself, I’m often embarrassed. I see how easily I can justify doing just about anything for myself, and if I’m not careful, I’ll treat myself rather extravagantly. Thankfully, the older I’ve gotten, the more conscious I am of this.
Friends, the core of this topic lies in answering for ourselves two very important questions.
- To whom do I belong? and,
- What dictates how I use all which God has provided?
God gives us provision and I am very certain His intention is for us to share what we are given with others. Basic, isn’t it? I’m sure you’ll agree, yet the challenge comes in how we manage the use of what we’ve been given. How much will we do for ourselves, and our own families compared to how much we share with the poor, the hurting, the unreached? Friends, if we choose to only focus our efforts on improving our own lives, or to giving minimal attention (and I do mean minimal) to the needs of others, we will become very self-centered.
If you feel like your toes are being stepped on, good! I think we in the western world need our toes to be stepped on! My experience is that we are all easily influenced by the power of our culture and I’m pretty sure that influence isn’t always coming from the heart of God.
Generosity needs fertilizing, for it’s been my experience that if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. Almost twenty years ago I began taking trips to developing countries and finding various ways to be around those who have little. We often hear or read of those less fortunate than ourselves but seeing it up close truly inspires generosity. It moves our hearts to be compassionate. Yes, I gave to many in years past, but experiences such as these have served to grow my generosity. As I’ve experienced the joy and satisfaction of helping others, it has now become a way of life.
A Pathway to Happiness
I was recently asked, “Have you ever seen an unhappy generous person who complained about all they were giving away?” I believe it’s impossible to link generosity with unhappiness. Rather, my experience is that the happiest people I’ve ever met are the most generous!
Friends, choosing to live generously is a heart issue. It’s requires focusing on why God made us and why He blesses us. God has also given us much instruction on this topic through His Word. The Bible repeatedly warns us not to get too attached to our possessions. And there are serious verses of Scripture with serious warnings about what happens when we do allow ourselves to be captured by our things.
I pray these words serve as a reminder for all of us to continually seek God in prayer regarding the generosity to which He calls us. Will you allow Him to search your heart and mind to see if you value what He values? Let’s make sure we are living our lives and managing our resources in a way that gives Him honor and thanks. May our generosity stand out in the world around us, so that we can testify to the goodness of God!