When we hear about celebrities and philanthropists donating large sums of money to various charities, it’s easy to think, “When I have more, I’ll be more generous.” But true generosity is not about giving large amounts of money or other resources; it’s about giving liberally from what we have.
2 Corinthians 9:6 says that the one who sows generously will reap generously. A farmer needs to open his hand, letting go of what he has, to scatter his seed. We, too, are called to hold loosely to what we possess, and to be willing to share (1 Timothy 6:18).
Becoming a generous person begins with open-handed living, with an awareness that all we have comes from God, and a confidence that He will provide seed for the sower. We don’t become generous by occasional, random acts of kindness. Generosity is a habit of the heart.
What prevents us from living generously? Fear of not having enough, our desire to hold on to what we have, and forgetting that everything we have comes from God can keep us from generous living.
Abraham models generosity in Genesis 13. Because of their growing families, Abraham and his nephew, Lot, need to part company and each settle in his own land. Although Abraham is the patriarch and it would have been customary and within his rights to choose first, he insists that Lot select his land first. Abraham was confident that God would bless him wherever he was, and did not demand the best for himself.
Jesus tells a parable about a rich man that gives a large offering at the temple entrance, and a poor widow that gives all she has, though only a couple of pennies. He then asks His listeners which one gave the more generous gift. The widow gave more in proportion to what she had, and her gift pleased God.
Remember the “Golden Rule?” Well, Jesus came up with it! After teaching about various topics, such as giving to the needy, prayer, fasting, and judging others, Jesus says that one principle sums it all up. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”
Steps to cultivate generous hearts:
· Gratitude: recognition that everything we have comes from God
· Open-handed living: hold loosely to what we have and be willing
and ready to share
· Trust: Confidence that the Giver of the seed will supply our needs
As is true with many areas of spiritual growth, the hardest place to begin is at home. Too often, home is the place where we fight for our rights: the most comfortable chair; the biggest piece of cake; which T.V. show to watch. It is usually easier to be generous with our friends or with perfect strangers that with our brothers, sisters, and spouses!
- · Next time you go for ice cream or fries, ask your child to share with you. Depending on their response, use the moment as an opportunity to explain that just as you provided the treat for your child, God provides everything for our enjoyment. When He asks us to share and be generous, He is only asking us to give from what He has so generously given to us.
- · The common advice, “One child cuts the piece of pie, and the other one chooses” may be good for avoiding conflicts, but it does not encourage generosity. Try “Abraham’s way” instead: tell one child to allow the other to cut and to choose. Talk to both children about Jesus’s golden rule that sums up all of his teachings: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”
- · As parents, we need to model generous behavior and attitudes. Our kids will learn volumes from watching the way we” hold on” to what we have, either tightly or loosely.
- · Insist that your children treat their family members as well as they treat their friends.
- · Serve together as a family. Volunteer at a food pantry, sponsor a child through Compassion International or World Vision, or serve at your local church. Even young children can color pictures to include in a letter to your sponsored child, or they can give a gently-used, much-loved toy to a child in need at Christmas. Exposing our children to the needs of others can open their eyes to the world around them, open their hearts to the joy of giving, and help them live with open hands.