I’ll be honest, I don’t think of myself as an overly generous person. I was raised in a generous household, with parents who served in the community and wrote checks to charities, so it’s not that it wasn’t modeled for me. And I appreciate it when others are generous with their time and skills to me, so I am not naïve or unaware of how others give. Plus, for the past 25 years, I’ve had the front-row seat of watching my husband express his generosity to his employees, under-funded organizations, and unknowing waitstaff. So, it’s not a surprise when the new year rolled around and I asked God to provide a word for me to wrestle with, to learn more about His ways, He gave me the word MONEY.
This word wasn’t a comfortable reveal. My mind spun a few times – What is God going to ask me to release? Do I get security from my bank account balances instead of Him? Are there people or objects am I holding onto too tightly?
Like a gentle Father, He started the lesson slowly. He showed me that generosity is more than just giving money by reminding me of a time when two friends separately dropped off dinner for me. I didn’t know how to receive this gift. It was appreciated but rocked me to tears. My family was helping another family during an unexpected medical trauma. These friends understood the importance of caring for a caregiver, to keep me fueled and strong, so that I would use that strength for others. God prompted this reminder to show me that generosity comes from our time, talents, and treasure given freely, and often, unexpectedly.
As I ruminated about the idea of generosity, I decided to try a variation of this wonderful memory by cooking for someone once a week. Nothing extravagant, but nourishing and healthy. Something to show the recipients that I see their stress and remind them they are cherished. I bet you aren’t surprised to hear the JOY I felt each Tuesday, as I stirred and sautéed, as I whisked and worshipped. Cooking for others brings smiles to my face, giggles to my spirit, and awesome conversations with God. As I dropped off the food hot and ready to be consumed, I felt lighter knowing I was doing more than feeding their bellies. I was nourishing their souls and mine.
It hadn’t occurred to me the blessings I would get from giving (Acts 20:35 and Matthew 6:21). Generosity begets generosity – it causes others to be generous too!
This small example of generosity was God’s way of preparing my heart for additional giving. Cooking was easy. It’s a “talent” I enjoy doing, time I’ve found worthy of spending on others, and the additional money at the grocery store didn’t push me out of my comfort zone.
His next lesson was also small, but at a direct hit to my pocketbook. In came a rush of financial asks, for a gamut of different causes. As God pushed me to reflect on why I haven’t contributed in past, I realized most of my excuses were silly, based on my control, pride, or greed. Maybe you’ve had similar thoughts:
- I don’t know the organization, what if they use my donation poorly? (control).
- You’ve got to be kidding me, you were mean to me/my kid! (pride/spite).
- Sorry, you are the 5th boy scout or girl scout showing up at my door; the early bird gets the worm. (greed).
Our Heavenly Teacher had my attention, along with repentance for my past actions. He then provided a current-day scenario of the widow and the mite (Mark 12:41-44), where a friend sacrificially gave to a cause on my behalf, while far more wealthy friends hadn’t. As this story is still unfolding, let me say, the $10 given made a lasting impression on me and my family. And with that, God was ready to administer another question – Whose money is it? His or mine?
There’s the million-dollar question.
I’m not the first to wrestle with this question, nor the last. But, if I believe everything I am – how my body and personality are uniquely made, my skills in school, business, and writing, even the friends and family God weaves around me – is from Him, then the things I own, don’t they come from Him too? Do I act like a proud earner or as a gracious steward? Another way to look at it is, am I willing to give the same donation, as an anonymous donor? Keeping the gift between only me and God?
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others,
as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” 1 Peter 4:10-11.
Interestingly, or God orchestrated, 12 days into my word MONEY, I was invited to lunch with our church’s Director of Generosity. God had been priming the pump for me to say yes to hosting a generosity retreat at our home. My husband and I already tithe to the church, having changed our giving from 10% net to 10% gross a few years ago. We were most excited to meet new people and to be exposed to additional approaches to generosity. And some of the ideas are radical: some Americans choose to live on 10% and give 90% away. Others cap their salary (thus also their consumption) and anything they earn above it, is given away. We heard story after story of God asking people to give away the coat off their backs, a brand-new car, the dignity of employment, and even a fully funded pension. One of the retreat participants asked if it is possible to out-give God. (Note: This generosity neophyte was oblivious to this concept, and now that I have a better understanding of how this all works, I bet it made God giggle, hoping we all would try, so He would over-bless us in our efforts).
As the Provider of everything (air, water, seed, soil, sun, harvester, bread baker, food to sustain us, etc.), God waits for us to be the agents who activate His generous giving, so that we “can be generous on every occasion” (2 Corinthians 9:11). In the past, when held back due to control, pride, or greed, I prevented God’s generosity from reaching others. I was the cog in the wheel. God desires that we seek Him first. We ask Him if He wants us to assist in this area, and if so, which talent or treasure for us to use. He created us and entrusts us with tasks “according to our ability.” By working side by side, through me and my faith, His generosity will compound! (Matthew 25:14–30).
If you are getting a late start at this lesson with me, don’t worry, Jesus will change us from the inside out, just like the short in stature, wealthy, yet unpopular tax collector, Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Ask God to take you on this journey with me. It’s only been 54 days since I started on this journey and look at all that God has revealed. When you ASK God to teach you, He does.
Prayer – Lord, thank You for loving me so much that You are prompting me to question uncomfortable topics and to examine habits that contradict all that You are. Please keep examining my heart for areas I need release, and for resources You desire I share with others. Prompt me also, through my time and talents, to share generously and love on others. I don’t know where this journey will take me, but the past 8 weeks have been amazing. Thank You for prompting this word and teaching me Your way. Amen