If I asked the question, “Do you consider yourself to be a generous person? Yes or no?” most of us would say, “Yes.” If I asked, “Why?” many of us would probably justify our responses by explaining that we give what we can to people in need, or we might proudly admit to faithfully tithing 10% our income for 20 years.
Now what if I were to tell you that these criteria alone aren’t good indicators of being a generous person? What if we’re actually missing the point of what it really means to be generous?
The fact is, many of us do not even know if whether we’re really a generous person in God’s eyes. Thankfully, God, through His Word, has provided clear criteria for knowing whether we’re a generous person and how we can become one.
The Bible gives us some characteristics of generosity:
Genuine generosity gives the first and the best to God. Proverbs 3:9-10 says, “honor the Lord with your wealth with the first fruit.” When truly generous people get the first of their paycheck, the first blessing, the first opportunity, they come to God and say, “I recognize all I have belongs to you, I want to give you the first and the best.” From God’s perspective, these people are generous.
Genuine generosity is systematic and regular. In 1 Corinthians, Paul writes to the Corinthian church and says, “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up…” (16:2) This shows us that we are to give regularly and systematically. Being generous is not about having “ooey-gooey” feelings or because it’s near Christmas or this person has a need and we gave them a couple hundred bucks. Being generous is a lifestyle.
Genuine generosity is proportional to our income. The tithe (10% of our income) is a good marker or starting point when it comes to the amount we should give. But Jesus was clear that the amount should not be limited to a particular number. We are encouraged to give more or less in proportion to our income.
Genuine generosity is sacrificial. Remember, God never measures the amount that we give; rather, God measures the amount of the sacrifice. In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes about how God gave grace to the Macedonian church to give sacrificially in the midst of their poverty and trials. We don’t often think of generosity coming out of trials and poverty, do we?
“In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” (2 Cor. 8:2) Then he says, “For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.” (v. 3)
Genuine generosity is thoughtful, voluntary, and worshipful. It isn’t just thinking with our heart, but also with our mind. And it’s an act of worship. We shouldn’t give grudgingly, but as a voluntary act of worship. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7)
So how do we actually live out genuine generosity? The key to becoming a generous person is faith. We need faith to believe and trust that God and His Word are true.
And the truth is, God blesses generous people. Numerous passages throughout the Bible attest to this. But the Bible doesn’t give us a formula or a promise for financial prosperity. That’s because God’s desire and promise is to bless us in every way, in order that we can continue to be a blessing to others. A quote from Randy Alcorn’s book, The Treasure Principle, says it best: “God prospers me to raise my standard of giving, not just my standard of living.”
This week, we’ll start the series, The Genius of Generosity. In it, I’ll share the story of how God used a secret pact with a friend to completely transform my understanding of generosity. It’s my prayer that this series will help you begin to live so generously that you will experience God’s most abundant blessings! In the process, you’ll be transformed into a living vessel that the very Spirit of God will use as an expression of love and generosity toward others.
Keep Pressin’ Ahead,
Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip