Talking about generosity during financial uncertainty may seem a little out of touch. Or does it? The topic caught my attention while reading through 2 Corinthians recently. In chapter 8, Paul talks about the Macedonians’ generosity in the midst of great poverty. Reading the passage slowly, I began to examine my own generosity or lack thereof. I asked myself, “Am I a generous giver? And what exactly does that mean?” God showed me three ways to measure my personal giving. I hope these questions help and encourage you, as well.
Am I passionate about giving?
The Macedonians actually begged for the privilege to participate in the collection for Jerusalem believers (v4). We usually connect begging with asking for help, not giving it. But despite their own desperate need, the Macedonians had a genuine and urgent desire to help fellow-believers. They associated God’s favor with what they could give rather than what they received.
So, I asked myself, “Do I give out of obligation or opportunity?” If I’m passionate about giving, then each opportunity to give is a privilege. I’ll even anticipate them so I can act quickly, without be prodded or made to feel guilty. That’s because generous giving is driven by grace, not manipulated by guilt. It’s recognizing that God’s provision of my needs is also provision to help meet the needs of others.
What do I give in proportion to what I have?
I recently read that church members gave a higher percentage of their income in the depths of the Great Depression than in recent years. Today, a number of studies show that people who have less actually give more, proportionately. As I read about the Macedonians, it struck me that their generosity was most evident because of their poor circumstances. They gave beyond their ability (v3). In other words, they gave much more than they could afford to give.
Even though the Macedonians didn’t have much, they gave much of what they had. Can I say the same? Am I willing to give something up in order to give beyond my ability? Being a generous giver is not based on the dollar amount we give because we have varying abilities. Generosity is all about the heart in which we give. When my heart is right, the amount will be right.
Who possesses me?
This is the critical question because the answer determines the outcome of the previous two questions. Verse 5 reveals the key to being a generous giver, “but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.” So, am I more concerned with my possessions or with Who possesses me? If I’m willing to trust Jesus with my life, then I can certainly trust Him with my possessions. I can even release the things I own in order to help others.
The bottom line of generosity is surrender. Jesus set the standard when He surrendered to the Cross. He generously and joyfully gave His life in order to pay our sin debt. As I surrender to Him I will also be generous, regardless of the surrounding uncertainty.