Recently my daughter came home with a box she planned to fill for a special offering at church. I assumed generosity was a new concept I’d need to explain, and I intended to after lunch. As we prepared to eat, I noticed my daughter was missing. Hungry for lunch, I hurried to find her and stumbled upon a lesson I wasn’t intending to learn. Lying next to her was the lid to her piggy bank, and she was dumping all its contents into her offering box. I was overwhelmed by the love in her heart and convicted by the lack in mine. My generosity lesson would not have started with pouring out everything (Matt. 26:6-13). The total amount was about $4, mostly in coins smaller than quarters. And nothing was more important to my daughter that afternoon than giving it all away. She never received a charitable giving statement, there was no fanfare, and she hasn’t worried a single day about whether her needs would be met.
Providing for the wellbeing of our families makes it unreasonable to give all our money away. But, our initial motive in giving will affect our generosity. Imagine if we weren’t concerned about giving, but holding back. What if the pain were not in giving, but in keeping?
It’s Not Easy
God calls us to be faithful stewards of the resources He’s given us (1 Cor. 4:2), but we often fail because of life’s unexpected difficulties or our irresponsible choices. We redefine our needs, subjecting ourselves to our finances rather than ruling over them. This will make generosity impossible. We must be as passionate about living within our means as we are about generosity. And, doing so requires discipline and delayed gratification that go beyond budgets, envelopes and credit lines. Our financial faithfulness should be compelled by Christ’s generosity toward us producing generosity toward others (Luke 16:1-13).
Dollars Don’t Buy Contentment
Matching your resources against others’ is a fool’s errand (2 Cor. 10:12). You will always be reaching for what you don’t have. And even if you catch it, contentment will still slip through your fingers. This is why if you’re living with discontentment when you’re making $30k a year you won’t be living without it at $300k. While prosperity isn’t the point of Matthew 25:14-30, utilizing our God-given resources certainly is. And, working within that mindset produces contentment, not amassing of more resources. Additionally, it’s a mistake to measure our contentment by “levels.” Either we are content or we are not (Heb. 13:5; Ecc. 5:10).
Little Is Much
Through the recent recession our church has been required to become creative in our spending and gathering of our resources. In doing so, our secondary goal was to hit our giving projections, while our primary goal was getting more people to literally “buy in” to our mission and message. A few weeks ago I was asked if giving only $5 a week really made that much difference in light of our financial needs. The honest truth is not really. But, it represents the potential to do much more than pad our fund balance. The story of the widow’s mite is more about the abuse of the poor than it is about her generous contribution. But, given her circumstances, her contribution is significantly more charitable than that of the Pharisees (Luke 21:1-4). The point can’t be missed that generosity is not measured in actual dollar amounts, but in the proportion of one’s means. I would even guess that the gift from the Macedonians to the Jews wasn’t a greater amount than the Corinthians had already been given but represented a far greater gift based on their poverty (2 Corinthians 8-9). There are times and situations where giving too much can be unwise because of pressing financial responsibilities, job loss or even poor decisions. The question in those situations is not, “how long can I go without giving?” but “when will I be able to give more?”
Gratitude for God’s Provision Fuels Generosity
It’s no secret pastors aren’t in the highest tax bracket, but for most of us our needs are abundantly met. Focusing on the amount of our salary rather than the provision of God will do nothing more than distract us from generosity and give us reason to give reluctantly or out of obligation alone. (2 Cor. 9:6) Our people will know when we give nothing or give begrudgingly. It will muffle our voice, leave a hole in our spirit, shorten our fuse, and frustrate our families. And though few people will ever see our giving statement, our whole congregation will be able to tell what’s on it. Generosity is the most pronounced illustration of Christ’s captivating our hearts. And it’s reasonable for all believers to connect their giving with their attitudes since we are compelled to give because of the inexpressible gift of God in Christ. (2 Cor. 9:15)