(this teaching can also be watched by scrolling to the bottom and clicking play)
For many people, when they find themselves in a new situation, the first question they ask is “what’s in it for me?” Although it may be hard to admit, our first instinct can often be to look out for ourselves. May I challenge you to consider another way to be?
How can we become more generous? This is the question that will be answered in this article.
When you read the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—you’ll find there’s a recurring theme of generosity because we serve a God who is big-hearted. In fact, Martin Luther, the great German scholar, called John 3:16 the Bible or the gospel in a nutshell. In that verse alone, anyone can quickly see just how big-hearted God is. This cornerstone Scripture says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
You see we serve a generous God, and He wants His children to also exude generosity.
For starters, there’s a whole host of benefits associated with being generous. Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” When we give, we see here blessings will surely find us.
Proverbs 22:9 says, “Whoever is generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” Again, God tells us generous people will be blessed.
Isaiah joins the conversation in verse 32:8 when he says, “But generous people plan to do what is generous, and they stand firm in their generosity.”
So here we’re seeing generosity is not a haphazard or accidental action. It is a planned intentional strategic outflow of a heart filled with kindness.
Here’s a foundational definition: Generosity means…
The quality or fact of being plentiful or large
The quality of being kind, understanding and not selfish
The willingness to give money and other valuable things to others
I want us to go on a journey together to try to understand the big-heartedness of God.
What does it mean to go on a generosity journey?
The first question that comes to mind is: Where does the journey begin?
Generosity begins in the heart.
Jesus says in Matthew 6:21, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
When I was born again, something happened to my heart. Apart from being forgiven of my sins, my worldview changed—not just about spiritual things, but about my stuff. I started thinking and listening to people. Sometimes I’d hear my friends say things like, “last night I was so hungry I had to wait for the cafeteria to open the following day because I didn’t have money to buy a burger.”
And then something happened in my heart. I wanted to do something generous for that person.
So I got an envelope (keep in mind I hardly had money myself), tucked in $10 with a little note saying, “someone was thinking of them,” and signed it anonymously. I went to the student union building with that sealed envelope, found their mailbox, stuck it in there, and to this day, they didn’t know who it came from. God had done something in my heart.
Psalms 112:5 says, “Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice.” The psalmist admits that because of God’s grace, he had extra. He was not a hoarder, so he could lend freely because he was generous.
The next question that comes to mind is:
When should I begin?
Your generosity journey should begin the moment you realize the benefits associated with being generous and how generosity is so much like your Heavenly Father.
Then I ask myself, what do I find as the starting point to generosity? It was the topic of the tithe.
Give God 10 percent of whatever you earn, a tithe. But that is not generosity. It was just a door—a gateway—an access point to get on the journey.
Leviticus 27:30-32 says, “One-tenth of the produce of the land, whether grain from the fields or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord and must be set apart to Him as holy. If you want to buy back the Lord’s tenth of the grain or fruit, you must pay its value plus 20 percent. Count off every tenth animal from your herds and flocks and set them apart for the Lord as holy.”
The writer tells us that the ancient people of God were primarily farmers and herdsmen. To get them on the road towards being generous—like Him—the Lord said to them to give Him one-tenth of whatever they produce. When you understand the culture of the text, it gets even more interesting. The Hebrew farmers and herdsmen would take a long wooden stick, wrap a piece of cloth on the tip, dip it in blood and then count the animals as they’re coming through the corral and make sure the 10th animal belongs to God.
Tithing is an act of worship. It doesn’t reflect generosity; it just reflects that you’re beginning the road to generosity.
Today not many people are farmers or herdsmen. You may be a consultant in leadership, a medical doctor, a teacher, an attorney or something else. No matter your profession, the Scripture treats each of us equally. Every dollar you make, God says, give me 10 percent of it.
Quoting the great German theologian Martin Luther again, he said, “People go through three conversions. The conversion of their head, their heart, and their pocketbook. Unfortunately, not all at the same time.”
I know some of you are Bible scholars, and you’ll say, “Come on man, tithing is an Old Testament practice. It’s not in the New Testament.” Well, you’re partially correct. Before the Mosaic Law, Abraham tithed in Genesis 14, therefore tithing predates the law. Then Leviticus 27 gives instruction on tithing, which is within the law.
Now, look at Matthew 13:23-24, which predates the law. Jesus is speaking and says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
Furthermore, Jesus says in Matthew 5:17, “I came to fulfill the law, not to abolish the law.”
So we see in the New Testament that tithing to the Lord’s work is still the entrance to generosity.
You must think and reason through it all the way. If tithing was abolished with the law and the law is no longer there, you have to think about the other elements of the law. The Scripture says in the law (the Mosaic Law), thou shall not murder. But based on the thinking that the law is outdated, you can now murder whoever you want whenever you want because we are under grace.
Ridiculous, isn’t it?
The New Testament is teaching us the doorway into the journey of generosity is still there.
I want you to see generosity begins in the heart and you should start the moment you learn that there are benefits associated with it.
So, finally, why take the journey of generosity?
Why should you become a generous person?
I believe you should take this journey because there are many benefits associated with generosity (e.g., how God will prosper you, how you will be able to help others, how you will be able to see God do amazing things because He’s big-hearted and kind).
But here’s another central reason I want you to take the journey: In John 8:29, Jesus is speaking and He says, “The One who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.”
Jesus senses the abiding presence of God because He always does what pleases His Father.
Get this: Jesus says “I take joy in pleasing God.”
Behold what we should all aspire to do.
If you’re going to serve Him, serve Him in alignment with sacred Scripture. Don’t cut corners and don’t take shortcuts. Do what Scripture says and your reward will be immeasurable. You’ll be the beneficiary of all of the promises of God.
Why? Because you take joy in pleasing the Father.
Today, decide to become the generous person God calls you to be.