Cultivate Generosity

Posted by Jeff Ryan on

Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Corinthians 9:6-11

God has given me a passion to see men and women grow in their faith, particularly in how they view money, as control of money has been a struggle in my own life. For the last 20 years I have had the privilege to share and teach at churches in Hong Kong on what I have learned that the Bible says about money. The Bible says very clearly that generosity is a key sign of spiritual maturity. God Himself modelled generosity. He showed His character as a giver in that He gave us His only Son’s life to pay for our sins and bring us back into relationship with Him. He wants us to be like Him. How do we cultivate generosity? First we need to know from His Word what role God has and what role we have. Scriptures say God is the owner, controller and provider of all the treasures, time and talents that we have on this earth during our lifetime. He doesn’t just want to see us give Him a 10% tithe, but to see how we use 100% of what He has provided us dedicated to His glory. Our worship then is essentially the recognition of God’s sovereignty and ownership of all we have. It is most fitting that giving should have been ordained to be an integral part of the worship of God.

One way for God to make people like Himself is to teach them to give. In order to give, He gave us the ability to earn money and then save money. He has designed us to be stewards. A steward is someone entrusted with another’s wealth or property and charged with the responsibility of managing it in the owner’s best interest. Our responsibility as His stewards is to invest our savings into His kingdom so that we will see more souls in eternity.

Thus God gave us money as a tool to help us learn to be good stewards by showing generosity. He gives us the opportunity to be more like God himself. Yet He gives us a choice. We don’t have to be generous and can choose only to receive, but that means we miss out here on earth and eternity on many rewards and blessings. Acts 20:35 says, “It is more blessed to give than receive.” We also miss out on intimacy with God because as we seek to know what He wants us to invest in, we grow closer to Him. What we also must realise is that we will be held accountable at the end of our lives for every penny He has entrusted to us.

When I look at how Americans handle money, we see people living beyond their income and piling up debt. Their lifestyle decisions preclude having funds to give. What I have noticed in my students in Hong Kong over the years is that their parents invariably taught them to save (by spending less than they earn), but didn’t often teach them to give. What results is a significant amount of hoarding. Both over-spending and over-saving lead to missed opportunities for blessing from investing in His Kingdom and a reckoning against us for not doing what He desires (as the Parable of the Talents reminds us).

In the 1919 book Money, the Acid Test, author David McConaghy likens the acquisition and use of money to swimming underwater. When we breathe in we are acquiring. When we breathe out we are spending or giving. What we hold in is saving. When we hold our breath underwater too long we are hoarding. If we hold our breath underwater too long, we can die physically. If we hold our savings too long and in too great a quantity, we can die spiritually. Hoarding usually indicates that we have succumbed to materialism. Materialism leads us to reduced reliance on God to provide, a false perception of control and power, and an increased distraction of time spent caring for our possessions.

So why do we hold so much of our breath for so long? One reason is because we have fears of not having enough in the present or future to provide for our family or ourselves. We fear not keeping up with our peers in our lifestyle. We begin to take on God’s roles of ownership, provision and control. We think we need to lay up lots of treasure on earth, but they do neither us nor the Kingdom of God any good. Christ tells us to lay up treasure in heaven for eternity. The farmer who laid up treasure in his barns for himself on earth was bankrupt in the hereafter.

As a father of five kids, I have experienced these fears myself as my annual income or savings has risen and fallen over the years. This causes me to be unthankful, discontent and lacking trust in our God. My fears can cause me to hesitate when God wants me to live generously. What drives this fear? A spirit of scarcity that there is not going to be enough to go around.

When I feel fear, I recall a verse I have memorised: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5

As I recite this verse I am reminded of how big a promise God makes with that word “never.” Never will I leave you or forsake you means He will always meet my needs. Then I recall that God has always kept His promises throughout the Scriptures. A God like that is really big and there is no reason for Him to change now. Then, without the fear, I am free to be the steward He wants me to be with bold faith goals.

Rick Warren said, “The size of your God determines the size of your goals.” Paul reminds us of how big God is in the Law of the Harvest in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously… And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work… Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

When I sow sparingly I show I have a small God and timid faith. When I sow generously, I show I have a big God and bold faith. To grow us, God lets us decide how we use money and how much He will bless us. If we want big blessings this verse promises them when we give generously. Instead of living with a spirit of scarcity, we can live with a spirit of abundance. A spirit of abundance realises that God replenishes the resources of those He sees investing in His kingdom. Giving then becomes much more than a duty; it is a joyful privilege to have a part with God in His plans for redeeming the world.

You only do what you believe. So consider now showing bold faith and living generously on all occasions. John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” The boldness of our generosity demonstrates the strength of our faith and whether we are truly satisfied in Him.

What better evidence could there be of genuine Christ-like living than that of generous God-like giving?


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