(this teaching can also be watched by scrolling to the bottom and clicking play)
The word “generosity” can produce a sea of definitions. It all depends on who you ask. In this article, let’s explore how God defines generosity and how to practice it from a Biblical perspective.
One thing that’s clear in Scripture is that we serve a God that’s tremendous in His generosity.
God is generous in His mercy.
He’s generous in His love.
He’s generous in His kindness.
He’s generous in His grace towards you.
He’s generous in His forgiveness.
And He is immeasurably generous in the great salvation that Jesus established for us on the cross.
I love what the Apostle John said in John 1:16. He said, “We all live off his generous abundance, gift after gift after gift.” God wants each of us to develop generosity. This is why the Scripture says that His abundant generosity is given to us gift after gift after gift.
Don’t you want that?
When we deal with the issue of generosity, there are some tough things we have to learn to be able to walk in this value that God wants us to enjoy.
Socrates once said, “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” In other words, you need to define what it is you want to grow in. As a family of believers, we need to define generosity.
Generosity is a noun.
Remember back in elementary school when our teachers taught us how a noun is a person, place or thing? Add to that animals, ideas or qualities. Generosity is a quality or a way to be—it’s not simply about what you do, it’s about who you are.
Paul, in 1 Timothy, was helping to shape young Timothy’s perspective in order for Timothy to shape the view of those he was teaching. In 1 Timothy 6:17-19 it says, “Command those who are rich in the things of this life not to be proud, but to place their hope, not in such an uncertain thing as riches, but in God, who generously gives us everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share with others. In this way they will store for themselves a treasure which will be a solid foundation for the future. And then they’ll be able to win the life which is true life.”
Here Paul shaped the definition of generosity. He urged Timothy to first recognize the depth of this virtue and then command others to do the same. The apostle wanted Timothy to understand generosity is supposed to emanate from a deep place to make you someone who not only does generous things, but you—yourself—are a generous person.
Paul qualified this by saying physical pleasure is not wrong. There’s nothing wrong with having a good, wholesome time. There’s nothing wrong with engaging in celebrations and enjoying life. In fact, enjoyment of life is a gift from God. The key is not to let pleasures and life’s natural physical enjoyments blind us from the actual perspective of how to live.
Timothy was to command the rich to imitate God in how they value generosity and this command was not just to those who are materially well off, but to every person.
Here’s the threefold command to all individuals:
Be rich with good works
Be generous financially
Be ready to serve
When you define generosity, you’ll find it’s also a verb.
It’s a word used to describe an action or a state of being. When you think about it, generosity is a verb because God requires all of us not just to be generous in our hearts, but to also do generous things in our lives and through our lives. I invite you to recognize the value of not just being, but the value of doing.
Every one of us must learn to access the pathway of generosity.
What was the door that God used with His ancient people to be able to get them on the path to generosity?
When you search through the Bible—before the Mosaic Law, during the Mosaic Law and into New Testament times of grace—we see a common access point.
Do you know what that door is?
Malachi 3:6 says, “I, the LORD, never change. That is why you descendants of Jacob haven’t been destroyed yet. Since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my laws and have not followed them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD of Armies. “But you ask, ‘How can we return? Can a person cheat God?’ Yet, you’re cheating me! But you ask, ‘How are we cheating you?’ When you don’t bring a tenth of your income and other contributions. So a curse is on you because the whole nation is cheating me! Bring one-tenth of your income into the storehouse so there may be food in my house. Test me in this way,” says the LORD of Armies. “See if I won’t open the windows of heaven for you and flood you with blessings.”
I want you to put yourself in the position of the recipient of this letter of Malachi. It was a very personal one. I can imagine some of the individuals hearing the letter read to them in the assembly and possibly flinching a little.
It’s like going to the doctor. When you go to the doctor, the doctor will push and prod and poke. If you say, “Oh man, that hurts!”, one or two things occurred. Either the doctor was insensitive and pushed you too hard, or the doctor says, “We have to do some more tests because it shouldn’t hurt when I touch you there.”
Again, we’re unpacking generosity as a verb. Just like that doctor illustration, if I open up Malachi three, and you wince or make concerned facial expressions, it tells me one of two things. Either I’m being insensitive and I’ve pushed the text too hard or there’s something amiss inside of you.
I’ve not even unpacked the text yet, so we can rule out that I’ve pushed too hard. It may be that something is not going on inside you the way it should.
Don’t be angry.
Don’t be offended.
Let’s just tend to it.
Let’s allow the Heavenly Physician Jesus, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, to help bring healing to you in that area of your life.
If you can’t even go through the doorway, then it means you’re hindering all of the blessings associated with generous living. You are not enjoying what it means to have the value of generosity like your Heavenly Father. So let’s go at it and dig out the poison so you can enjoy a prosperous, thriving, flourishing spiritual life—particularly in the area of practicing generosity.
Generosity requires action. Tithing means giving one-tenth of all of your earnings to the work of the Lord through His local church. That’s the tithe. The Scripture says if you don’t give God one-tenth, you’re guilty of cheating God, but you’re also guilty of cheating yourself. God promises to open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings upon you.
So tithing is a trigger that’ll release God’s provision to you on a greater level.
But it’s not a cure-all. There is still the need for budgeting, money management, living within your means and making wise financial decisions. Tithing doesn’t ignore all those things. It simply says when you have put all those practices in place and you’re still putting those practices in place, you give God one-tenth of what you earn. That’s how God’s house thrives and flourishes.
And that’s how we do ministry and keep ministry flowing and win people to Christ through the power of the tithe.
Some translations say you’re guilty of robbing God, while other translations say you’re guilty of stealing from God. These are heavy words, and I don’t want to be guilty. Instead, I want you to be guilty of being a partner with God.
Consider this: Give God’s house one hundred if you make a thousand dollars a week. That’s the starting point. That’s not even generosity yet. That’s just getting to the doorway to start a generous lifestyle.
Yes, generosity is hard at times, But, if God calls us to be generous people through the doorway of tithing, God is going to come alongside and help us.
God wants to give you as much as you can handle. He wants to provide you with a lifestyle of generosity and work within your heart, but He has to be able to trust you. Don’t wait to say, “I need to get my life together, and then I’ll start tithing.” It’s almost like dieting. You can’t say, “Let me get my life together, and then I’ll start dieting.” You have to start today. You can’t go and buy the cheesecake and then say, I’ll start after I eat the cheesecake. It’s the same with tithing. Just start today.
We’ve already learned generosity as a noun and a verb.
Now I want to show you how generosity is also an adjective.
It’s a word that’s used to describe or modify a noun or modify a pronoun. In other words, it gives you another perspective of the noun.
In order to better understand generosity as an adjective, I want to take you to a service where Jesus was present.
Mark 12:41-44 says, “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two tiny copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘Truly, I tell you this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’ ”
This generous widow gave these two copper coins. Jesus’ focus locked in on this generous widow’s actions.
Scholars agree that it was two coins, not all of what she had, but all of what she made that day. It was what she would live on for the day and she put everything in. The others contributed their large amounts, yet Jesus never zeroed in on their bountiful offerings. Instead, He gazed upon what the widow gave because the wealthy gave out of their abundance, but she gave out of her necessity—out of her lack. One demonstrated giving, the other demonstrated generous giving.
My question to you is this: When people describe you, can they attach the word, the adjective of generosity to your name to describe you more accurately?
May I pray for you today?
Father, I thank you for each person reading this. I ask that the power of the Holy Spirit will effect change in our lives. I pray, God, that you do something above and beyond all that we can ask and all that we can imagine for them and others. May we build a more generous family of believers to shake the world for Jesus.