As the second oldest in a family of seven, I have a great deal of experience giving. I’m not proud to say, it was often against my will; cheeks flushed, teeth clenched, eyes filling up with water. The act of giving still, to this day, produces a juvenile “Do I haveee tooo?” type resistance in me every time I do it. On my worst day, when my struggle is exposed, (usually by my kind husband) I would rather unleash a devastating attack of “logic” and self-pity on him than accept how selfish I really can be. Take, for example, my recent passionate argument that the well-being of our family depended on me devouring the entire bag of kettle corn while binging on “Project Runway” when I should have been folding clothes. If he just understood the real sacrifices I make for us, then we wouldn’t have any problems.
Why can it be so difficult to give of our time, energy and money? We all want to be generous, right? I don’t think anyone would write “stingy” under the “about me” section in a dating profile. Does God have anything to say about giving? How are Christians to respond? Thankfully, the Bible does give perspective about giving, and how it applies to faith in God. If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering if it’s possible to become more generous and to maybe even enjoy giving in the process.
In order to actually be more generous, it’s important to understand how generosity is encouraged in the Bible. Paul, an apostle of Jesus, writes in the New Testament to a struggling church on this very topic.
“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 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
If we break this down, we learn a couple key truths.
1) Your generosity will grow when you give.
Sowing seed was a normal part of culture for the people Paul was writing to. It would have been ridiculous for a farmer to expect a large crop if he did not sow seed in great quantity. What we can draw from this metaphor is the notion that if we are generous with how we give to something with time, money, or energy (i.e. relationships, social justice needs, workplace), we can expect healthy growth in our generosity.
Have you ever tried to grow anything? One time in middle school I tried to grow a watermelon for my mom. In hindsight, it was probably not the first thing I should have ever tried to grow, but nonetheless, I was faithful to that plant. I tilled the soil around it, watered it every day, I even gave it a name I can’t remember. After weeks of waiting, it finally ripened to its full glory; a sad looking greenish fruit the size of an orange. It tasted terrible, but I had never been more proud of something I had invested in. Here’s the point: You can trust in your best efforts to give because it will grow a generous heart in you regardless of the result. We will be changed on the inside, despite any failure in our giving endeavors. Will we do it perfectly? No. But every step taken to give when it hurts will make you more and more comfortable with the pain. You may even grow to love it.
2) God will not force you to give.
Have you ever been forced to give something away? How did that go? If you didn’t resent every minute of it, then you can stop reading now. Despite what you may have heard, God desires for His people to give, not out of reluctance, or compulsion (as we see in verse seven), but out of love. Doesn’t it seem weird that God would trust jacked-up people to give as “we have decided in our hearts”? Giving “cheerfully,” or willingly, doesn’t earn us God’s love, but rather it reaffirms the gift He first extended to us in His love. Christians can be generous to freely give whatever God wants them to give, including their energy, time, and money, because He will never stop freely giving to us.
Giving Something of Great Value
My earliest memory of giving a really good present was when I was seven years old. I saved up my allowance for months and bought my little sister a small, plush green dinosaur she had on her birthday list. It was twelve dollars. With my allowance set at a whopping one dollar a week, it took what felt like an eternity in kid-time to save up for it. All these years later she still fondly remembers that present not because of the actual gift itself, but because of the investment I made so that I could give.
Giving is hard when the things that we give required an investment to attain. I can imagine it wouldn’t take much effort to give away that terribly oversized pink teddy bear your weird Aunt bought you for high school graduation. Giving what has great value to us is a good indicator that we’re giving out of love and not compulsion.
Trusting in the Process
I never knew how much I could actually “give” of myself until I became a parent. As a mom, my one saving grace was the discipline of giving I fought hard to cultivate in my life before baby. I’m thankful that the years of practice in giving (not always cheerfully, I might add), based on these principles, produced in me a generosity only the Lord could have inspired. I am still in process, but I am reaping the benefits of what I sowed long before spit up, sleepless nights and never ending diaper changes would test my ability to give.
What about you? Your everyday relationships are opportunities to practice the disciplines of giving in your life. Imagine the impact you could make if you chose to sow deeply into every aspect of your life: your church, your job, your campus? Whether it’s time, money, energy, or love, the generosity that will grow in you, when you give something of great value, is priceless. Trust that the Lord will make all grace abound to you, should you decide to give. The sacrifice is always worth it.
Jenny Bell is a boss mom, bicultural Jesus follower, thrift enthusiast and adventurer of the little things. Her Sociology degree, passion for communication and zealous love of people drives her to teach and speak when she isn’t picking up Cheerios off the floor.