Living Generously

live generously

Several weeks ago I laid the foundation for the topics we considered last time and today. I talked to you about adopting a Biblical philosophy for living life based on extravagant love and generous living. We’ve already looked at what the scriptures say about extravagant love and now we’ll explore what the Bible teaches about living generously.

Let’s return to Luke, chapter 6, from The Message.

Luke 6 (The Message)

“To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.”

First of all I think it’s important to note that Jesus’ teaching, here, doesn’t specifically mention money. We often equate generosity with money because in our culture money is the primary medium of exchange. But Jesus put the emphasis for generosity on what?…relationships. He points out that generosity is a bridge for building relationships, or at least for avoiding unnecessary conflict. When we serve others, He points out, we lay the foundation for relationship.

Another benefit of a generous attitude is that it reduces our tendency toward vengeance, lowers our stress and downgrades our stuff below the level of relationship. In other words, if sacrificing some stuff will initiate, build or preserve a relationship, that’s the proper priority.

So many times in life we get hung up on keeping the scales balanced; making sure there’s always equity. Simply put, we like to keep score; if I do for you, you must do for me and vise versa.

However, this mindset almost always leads to a downward spiral in the relationship and it’s a tedious and petty way to live. Sometimes we are going to receive in measure too great to repay and sometimes we must generously give without any expectation for repayment.

Generosity looks for ways to out-give; it doesn’t expect to receive and it doesn’t count the cost. A generous person lives with an open hand rather than selfishly clinging to everything. That doesn’t mean we just give everything we own away, that we don’t hold on to some things of value or that we allow our kindness and generosity to be abused. Generosity begins with you and me, not the one(s) to whom we give. You don’t have the opportunity to be generous when someone with a need (or want) is guilting you to invest in them. As with extravagant love, generosity needs to be tempered with wisdom.

Now, we can’t have a discussion of generosity in a monetary culture without talking about money. The relationship between our attitude about money and an attitude of generosity is deeply interwoven and says a lot about our view of God.

A generous person views God differently than one who is selfish. We can choose to see God as a God of abundance or a God of scarcity. Paul wrote to the church in Philippi which had shown him kindness and generosity.

Philippians 4:19

19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

He reminded them that their generosity was not a loss to them. It was, instead, the path to God’s provision. I’m convinced that many times we do not experience the generous provision of God because we are holding too tightly to the meager resources we have accumulated on our own.

Here is what Kathy and I have discovered; if you’re waiting until you have excess to be generous you will never develop a lifestyle of generosity. Generosity isn’t just sharing out of the abundance of what you have, it’s giving when it doesn’t seem as though you have enough for yourself. It’s important to remember that not having what we want is not the same as not having what we need. In our culture, it’s rare to meet someone who doesn’t have more than they actually need.

If we don’t truly believe that our God will supply our needs we cling to what we have; we see God as having limited resources. When we see God as overflowing with abundance, on the other hand, we release our grasp on the stuff we accumulate; we learn to let things go; we stop being obsessed with keeping up.

The reality is that God doesn’t need your money or mine but He does look at our attitude toward money as a reflection of our trust in Him. Letting go of money is one of the hardest challenges for many people. We never truly feel we have enough of it. We always tend to define “enough” as just a little bit more than we have right now.

So, if you are never going to have so much that you feel at ease letting go of your money where does financial generosity begin? Well, like generosity with our time and our energy, financial generosity begins with a decision. We decide to give and to give consistently. We don’t wait for excess. We don’t wait for it to feel good. We don’t wait for someone to ask. We simply give.

I recommend giving a percentage. The Bible standard in the Old Testament was the tithe, or tenth. God asked His people to give one tenth of their increase to Him. In their culture it was often their crops or livestock they gave. For us, it’s money. The New Testament doesn’t seem as specific about the tithe as the Old Testament. Possibly this is due to our tendency to meet the minimum requirement and no more. Since the New Testament emphasizes the heart over the law, God seems to have left us to make our giving a heart issue. That means we may well feel God asking us to far exceed the tithe. We have to work this out while cultivating a heart of generosity.

As I stated before, I recommend giving a percentage because it rises and falls according to our income but it never completely goes away because we all receive something along the way.

The key is to make a decision and be consistent doing what you’ve decided. This usually means giving first then living off of the rest. Otherwise, you’re just giving God your left-overs and that’s not generosity at all.

At LifePoint we rarely talk about money. We provide you with opportunities to give without guilt or pressure. Your giving determines the reach of our ministry.

You get to decide. We are a church with few overhead expenses. We get to be extra generous in direct ministry because we are not supporting a vast infrastructure. But we can only give what we have.

So far we have rarely come across a need we haven’t been able to participate in to some degree, but what could we do if we adopted an even more generous attitude?

We will only find out if we actually decide that is who we want to be.

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