This past Sunday I shared that one of the spiritual disciplines Jean and I practice is “Generosity and Simplicity.” I have enjoyed three good conversations with people who have expressed a desire to grow in this area. Below are some thoughts.
Having decided we want to be generous, we must decide what it means to be generous. For Jean and me, it entails our whole lives: Time, Talent and Financial Assets. We want to give ourselves away, and we want to give away our financial assets as well. Committing ourselves to serving others is a way to be generous. Yet we also want to be financially generous. How then do we determine what it means to be generous? Do we define it or do we ask God, seeking his wisdom in the Bible? We are committed to the latter.
How does the Bible define generosity? We find three standards of generosity in Scripture. First, Malachi 3:6-12 seems to suggest God expects us to give a tithe (10%) of our income for the building of God’s kingdom. God goes so far to say that giving less than a tithe is robbing God. We decided long ago that we did not want to rob God. Now we realize that someone who does not believe in God would dismiss this notion. Anyone is free to do that. Second, we discover that Jesus, in whom the fullness of God resides, sacrificed for our gain. In II Corinthians 8:1-9, we see the example of sacrificial giving-giving so that we must give up something. Third, we see in Luke 21:1-4 that a widow gave everything. We are humbled by our inability to live up to such a high standard. Yet, out of deep gratitude to God, we want to grow in this direction, which leads us to give away approximately 15% of our gross income to the work of God’s kingdom. This effort grows out of God’s gracious provision in our lives. Such grace frees us to strive for a generous life.
In order to live generously we have had to do two things: l. Trust God’s faithful provision , and 2. Simplify our lives. We simplify by purchasing fewer things and saving more. We don’t automatically buy the latest new thing. We update our home very slowly, as we are able to save. Some things we choose not to update. We buy some of our clothes at the Neighborhood Store, which helps that ministry. We use coupons. We have always had one TV. There are many ways to simplify. G. K. Chesterton suggested that there are two ways to have enough: one is to accumulate more and more; the other is to desire less.
We made the decision to simplify our lives almost forty years ago. It has added up over time, and has empowered us to grow in generosity. We do not claim to be the most faithful or generous Christians. Quite simply , we just want to grow in our faithfulness and generosity for two reasons: l. To glorify God (II Corinthians 9:11); and 2. We want to enjoy the fruit of God’s blessing (II Corinthians 9:6). We do not believe being faithful to God will make us multi-millionaires; however, we do believe the concept of stewardship impacts the quality of our lives. Erich Fromm, noted German psychologist, once said, “the essential difference between the unhappy neurotic type person and the person of great happiness and joy is the difference between get and give.”
In our experience there is some truth there, as it echoes biblical truth.
To the Glory of God,