Rhythms of Generosity

Rhythms of Generosity

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Managing money is a challenge. Education, housing, transportation, food and clothing all seem to empty our wallets fast. Add to these the challenges of finding employment and the ever-increasing price of everything, it’s no wonder many find themselves financially frustrated.

A recent USA Today article, "Millennials struggle with financial literacy," points out that more and more millennials are taking on huge debt and taking on significant financial burdens early in their lives that could create significant future challenges. I agree; it’s important to learn to manage finances well, and there are tools that can help. Making a plan and establishing a monthly budget are great foundations to stewarding resources well.

However, I want to suggest another essential element of good financial stewardship. It might seem odd, but I believe one of the vital components of healthy stewardship, regardless of your current financial situation, is giving. Now, that may sound like strange advice, especially for those who feel strapped already. What about my debt? Shouldn’t I pay that down first and then start giving? Well, maybe and maybe not.

I believe many millennials mistakenly put off giving until they are in a better place financially, thinking, I’ll start giving when I’m making better money. However, that is simply not biblical. On the contrary, the Bible teaches us to give cheerfully and sacrificially to God’s work from the resources He has provided.

When it comes to stewardship, we can both aggressively pursue our financial goals, even while we give. It’s OK to start small. Maybe you begin giving a little bit and look forward to a time when you can give more. It’s not as important the amount you give, but that you establish a routine of giving every time you receive from the Lord, setting aside an amount for Him (even if it’s small).

I encourage you to think about the things you are most passionate about and start giving to that work. What excites you? Maybe you are passionate about giving to global missions, providing for the poor, producing Bible translations for unreached peoples, drilling wells, helping families, providing vaccinations or fighting the sex trade. There are so many great ways to be a part of God’s work. I recommend researching the stewardship of organizations doing such work with tools like Charity Navigator and ECFA, then start contributing regularly, establishing a rhythm of generosity.

One of the great patterns God has established for His people is that they give from the firstfruits of what He has given. The people of Israel used to bring the first and best portions of their harvests and livestock, offering them to God. In a similar way, we count it a privilege to take some of what we’ve been given and give it back to Him.

Jesus viewed generosity as evidence of saving faith. One time Zacchaeus told Jesus he had given half of his possessions to the poor and repaid fourfold anyone he had defrauded. Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come to this house…” (Luke 19:9). Jesus acknowledged Zacchaeus’ generosity as evidence that his faith was real.

Another time, Jesus pointed out to His disciples a widow who gave generously from her poverty, giving all she had to live on. Many might have called it bad stewardship, but Jesus honored her for her great sacrifice, even above the generous gifts of the rich (Mark 12:44).

Additionally, I’m encouraged by Paul’s exhortation to the church in Corinth:

"The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work" (2 Corinthians 9:6-8).

God has not called us to a begrudged reimbursement, but rather an understanding of our resources financial or otherwise as gifts from Him that we can use to serve Him.

Most of us will never be in a place financially where we have more money than we know what do with. There will always be loans to pay off, mortgages, college funds and retirement to put our money toward. Most of us will need to learn to give generously from places of need.

There will also be some who read this who already are or will become very wealthy. The rich have the privilege of excelling all the more in this grace of giving. I believe wealth is a gift God sometimes gives His people so they can generously fund His work all over the world.

I’m convinced in the world to come, we won’t compare old bank statements or the combined worth of our earthly assets, but I do think we will rejoice together in the resources God gave us so we could give to His work in the world. We will marvel that He allowed us to be a part of things He could have easily done without us. It's amazing God is pleased to let us participate in what He’s doing.

So don’t wait to establish rhythms of generosity in your life. Wherever your finances are currently, make a plan to be generous and start giving regularly to things you are passionate about. Offer your firstfruits and don’t be surprised when like the believers in Corinth, God makes all grace abound to you.

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  • Comment by  KatieP:

    Great post, this was really challenging to me!  I definitely fall into the 'recent grad who is trying to pay off school loans as quickly as possible' category, so a re-focus on giving is a good reminder.  Also, as a side note related to money management, I have found that online budgeting systems have really helped me a lot.  I know there are a number of good ones, but I use learnvest.com and it has really helped me to keep better track of my spending.

  • Comment by  Lindsay:

    This is a great article!  Giving is where it's at.  We can never outgive God.  He always meets our needs, and blesses us immeasurably with joy when we give sacrificially and cheerfully.

    I only disagree on one point, Andrew.  Whereas you "encourage [Boundless readers] to think about the things you are most passionate about and start giving to that work," I would suggest that we all ought to give 10% of our gross income to our church first, and then give above and beyond that to our favorite charities and causes.

    Whereas millenials are great at giving of their time, they are, by and large, not committed to the Biblical tithe.  I think this is a disservice to the local church family.

  • Comment by  brx:

    Good points Andrew.

    I was convicted some years ago to strive to be a diligent steward in terms of making sure I don't rob God of my tithe (really, His tithe) [Malachi 3].  It must've been a strong movement of the Holy Spirit during that message on giving because I haven't heard any quite as good in the years since on that subject...maybe because I'm already convicted about it...  

    Something I've been wondering about lately though... at the time, the church I was a part of had a policy that they would not 'pass the basket' but only have mailboxes near the back of the sanctuary or lobby and you give wahtever God has put on your heart. ...I thought that was really neat - I liked the idea of trusting God in taht way.  Fast-forward years later from church-in-a-box to permanent campus -- the policy was quietly changed to keeping the mailboxes, but also passing the basket. ...and when asked directly, the executive pastor says quite matter-of-fact that the giving goes up by approximately 20% when we pass the basket. [I'm going somewhere with this background story]  To counter some of my easily distracted train of thought some years ago, I started mailing in my tithe as soon as my regular 'crop yields' were converted to $.  Better diligence, I thought.

    Recently, I've been wondering though... with the passing of the basket, am I not being a good witness - possibly even a bad witness - when people around me clearly see me put nothing in the basket?

  • Comment by  brx:

    Re: #2 Lindsay

    Caution should be exercised -- trying to translate the Biblical Old Testament tithe laws into a hard&fast rule about giving 10% to one's church is frought with perile.  One's church is not necessarily a close approximation of the OT tabernacle or temple (unless you're a Mormon).

    10% is also only a starting point; an OT scholar pointed out to me that if we add the tithe in with all the other OT giving laws, it's much closer to 25%.  

    First-fruits were also often considered to be different than the tithe.  

    I think we're on more firm ground to suggest not only that each person work toward giving regularly, but that we thoughtfully and prayerfully consider the intentional distribution of our giving in light of what God and His Word have revealed to us thus far - and periodically re-evaluate that.   ...God may have you give to some things that you are NOT very passionate about sometimes, but you may still sense God clearly saying that's where He want's the tithe from you at this time...

    Grace, peace & adventures seeking God's will!

  • Comment by  Peter:

    When discussing God's provision in this matter, it pays to bear in mind that God has set in place certain natural laws of finance. One is that taking on un-needed debt - even for worthy causes like giving to your church - reduces your future ability to build real income.

    Too many of us think only in terms of getting a job and a wage, but real wealth-creation - with its attendent opportunities to give and to employ others - comes from building your own business. Doing so involves delaying gratification. Spending resources on building the business now, so that you will have more discretionary funds later. God knows this (Of course He does, He made life to work that way) so it is hardly likely that He frowns upon this kind of financial wisdom when it comes to giving.

    Lindsay (#2) in order to "Biblically" tithe, you need to be an Israelite farmer in the Promised Land. No-one else is commanded to tithe and the pattern in the NT church was that those who hadm gave, while those who had not, received.

    Regards.. Peter

  • Comment by  Diana:

    As to the poor example letting the basket pass by, I want an "I give online" sticker to wear some weeks.I worry about people making assumptions when I don't put anything in the offering. Your giving is between you and God. I try not to worry what other people think, and just know that God knows my heart and what I am doing. Maybe it is like the idea of not letting your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Making a show out of tithing isn't a good thing either.

  • Comment by  Johnathan:

    Wondering if this is going to turn into a tithing vs. giving debate... =)

    Anyways, I love this post - I am a huge believer in giving, both theologically (the Bible is clear on it) and practically (God blesses cheerful, generous givers!).  I look at my own church and know that while in some ways we're a generous church, we have a long way to go in terms of genuine, faithful, generous, above and beyond giving.  I always have to ask myself if my giving is pleasing to God, or if God is shaking his head at me and wondering why I'm so stingy.

    I still remember several years back, I was just a few years out of college, and I had a co-worker who went to my church, and I noticed (wasn't trying to notice but did) that whenever the offering came around, he would fumble through his wallet and find something and drop it in the offering plate - usually a few bucks, or a five, occasionally a ten.  Being his co-worker and friend, I knew what his salary was (ballpark) and I knew his lifestyle, and that was simply pathetic.  I hope that his giving was the exception in young adults rather than the rule.

  • Comment by  James:

    While I do think it's important for us to make the distinction between the OT custom of tithing and our present day call to be generous...let's not get too hung up on it here.  Truthfully I wouldn't have any issue if my Church replaced their use of the term "tithe" with "giving".  Of course as Christians we're called to a life of giving, in all areas  - I'd hope we can all agree on that.  But, personally it still bothers me that a large faction of believers do not recognize the significance that Christ's sacrifice made for us.

  • Comment by  Ichoosetoremainanonymous:

    It is good to be a good role model to others. That being said, it is no one's business (other than GOD) to know when or how much a person tithes. Yes, it is good to have people keep you accountable to stay faithful to GOD in tithing if you want people to keep you accountable in that area, but it is no one's (except GOD's) ultimate business to know what you do in that area of your life).

    The word "alms" means money. Here is what the Bible says:

    "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly." -Matthew 6:1-4 (KJV)

  • Comment by  Johnathan:

    Re: #9  I_choose_to_remain_anonymous

    it is no one's (except GOD's) ultimate business to know what you do in that area of your life).

    I'm not sure if I agree with such a strong statement.  The Matthew 6 passage is not emphasizing that giving  is "no one else's business" but rather than giving (among other Christian duties) should not be focused on earning praise from others.  That's the context of that passage.

    Now, I fully appreciate (and support) the principle that it's probably best that very few people know about your giving.  But to say that no one needs to know seems extreme, because I think a close Christian friend that knows can be a great source of accountability. (like you alluded)

  • Comment by  Peter:

    Jonathan.. (#7)

    Pardon my sensitivity, but it seems so common for people to default to OT tithing law whenever we discuss the grace of giving.

    As for giving a little, I have my own struggle on this. Due to weather and market factors, my income these last two years has been far below the poverty-line. I have been living and eating on borrowed money, without taking social support or charity. (Farming can be like that).

    My dilemma when the bucket comes around, is whether to give pocket-change  or nothing at all. Borrowing to give isn't wise and giving such small amounts seems to disproportionate in comparison to what I owe God that it almost seems disrespectful.??

    I trust God to know my motivation.

  • Comment by  Nicole:

    I've heard a lot of sermons over the years, and have read a lot of newsletters about the church's financial needs and that usually equates to "we need a bigger more expensive foyer to better serve coffee and chit chat in".

    I see the basket being passed around like its some kind of peer pressure tool.

    I see a lot of people assume that if you aren't giving at least 10 percent gross it's because you are lazy and selfish , you have too many fancy cars or cell phones to pay for that mean more to you than your church does.

    I have never once heard a pastor say to his congregation, those of you who haven't worked in over a year, single mothers abandoned, the underemployed barely scraping by, do YOU need help from your CHURCH?

  • Comment by  Johnathan:

    Re: #11 Peter

    No need for a "pardon."  I can completely understand where you're coming from - tithing and giving are two commonly misunderstood concepts from the Bible.  Many people have discussed this, even on Boundless, and I know I've commented on the subject several times as well.  

    I think that not only can we trust God to know our motivation, but we should actually be encouraged by that.  Knowing that God is ultimately the one we're giving to/for, he will be pleased if we're giving faithfully, whether it's small or large.  Hopefully you can be encouraged by the widow that gave two small coins yet was praised by Christ!

  • Comment by  kaj:

    Re: Comment #12

    "I have never once heard a pastor say to his congregation, those of you who haven't worked in over a year, single mothers abandoned, the underemployed barely scraping by, do YOU need help from your CHURCH?"

    I'm currently unemployed, and my unemployment compensation is just enough to pay my rent (I live in a very modest 1-bedroom, all-utilities-included apartment in one of the relatively "safer" parts of the city), cell phone bill (I don't have a "smartphone," and this phone is my home phone as well), and a tankful of gas (Thank God my car is paid off!).

    I understand churches want to exercise discretion when people who ask for financial assistance. Perhaps, sometimes the church leadership prefers to be discreet in its giving, lest people clamor for handouts.

    However, I do give to my church in spite of my unemployment, and, in a surprising way, the church gave back to me, recently.

    I volunteer with a team that I have put in some long hours in serving. Because I have no (paying) job, it at least gave me something to do (when I'm not caring for my own apartment or job-hunting).

    The other day, the team leader gave me a "thank you" card, signed by all the team members and in it was a decent-sized gift card to the local grocery store.

  • Comment by  Kellie:

    #12:  Our church recently got together and donated household supplies to a recently single mother in our church.

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