Generosity is a hard quality to find these days. Selfishness is the banner that flies over most people’s lives. But it is not supposed to be this way. As believers we should be known by our generosity (John 13:35). Generosity is important because it puts feet to our claims of love and concern. As John said in his epistle, “Whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)
So why aren’t people more generous? Why could it be that we struggle with generosity so much from time to time? Five and a half reasons:
1. Sometimes we manage our money poorly.
Did you know the Lord has blessed us all enough to be generous if we were only careful and wise with our money? Proverbs 21:20 says, “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.” This verse says a wise man will learn to live off less than he makes. Being generous takes planning. It takes wisdom. It takes discipline. But it can be done.
There will be times in most of our lives when we experience a financial crisis, and that crisis may have been completely unavoidable. At those times being financially generous may be impossible. But for most of us, for most of the time, we could be generous to those around us if we were only wise in the way we managed our money.
2. Sometimes we think it is unwise to be generous.
Often we are reluctant to be generous because we worry about how the money will be spent or whether the recipient is truly worthy of our help. While we do need to be wise with our generosity, these kinds of concerns are often signs that we have missed the whole point of generosity. Generosity is not primarily about re-educating or reforming the recipient. Sometimes it isn’t about how much it helps the recipient at all. Generosity is first about honoring the Lord by imitating his love and character. Second, generosity is about the impact it has on us, the giver.
Be wise in your generosity, but don’t let your skepticism rob the Lord of honor due his name or rob you of the life-changing joy of sacrificing for others.
3. Sometimes stinginess is the consequence of a lack of salvation.
Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him (1 John 3:17)? This is a really good question. A similar point is made by Jesus in Matthew 25:41-46 when he says the biggest difference in the saved and the lost is that the saved were generous to the “least of these” and the lost were stingy.
Could it be that a lack of a desire to be generous simply reflects a heart that has not experienced the generosity of the Lord in the form of salvation?
4. Sometimes our lives are ruled by money.
Money can become a ruler over us if we are not careful. It can become a ruler over us because of the stuff it can buy, the status it can bring, and the security it can give. But Jesus said, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
We can live our lives for money or we can live our lives for the honor of the Lord. The former leads to selfishness and misery, the latter leads to generosity and joy.
5. We forget the generosity the Lord has shown to us.
There is an old song we sometimes pull out and sing at my church: Count Your Many Blessings. The song urges us to count our blessings and allow ourselves to be reminded of how good the Lord has been to each of us. When we focus on the generosity of the Lord, we will become more generous ourselves. When we forget his generosity, we will forget our own.
5½. We forget the angels.
OK. This one sounds pretty odd. But are we going to only believe Scripture when it doesn’t sound odd? In Hebrews 13:2 we read, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”
Sometimes I feel led to show generosity to complete strangers and sometimes for no apparent reason. Sometimes I choose to be generous, sometimes I fail, but all of the time I wonder, could this have been an angel? Could this have been an opportunity to honor the Lord in a special way that will only be made known in eternity?
Why aren’t you more generous?
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