What it really means to be generous, according to the Bible


Think about the most generous person that you know? What makes them such an inspiring giver? In what ways do they embody biblical teaching on generosity?

Parting with our money, time and even old clothes can seem such a struggle at times. We might be cautious about how much we give in an attempt to safeguard ourselves against hard times that we're experiencing or anticipating. In some cases we convince ourselves and others that we've been generous when we know that it was well within our capacity to give more.

The way that Jesus lived his life and the examples that he gave of righteous giving show us that when it comes to being generous, we shouldn't hold back.

The almost constant glare that we have on one another's activities can distort what it means to be generous for us as Christians. So what does it mean to be truly generous according to the Bible?

It's more about giving your all than it is about giving so all can see
One of the lessons that we learn from the story of the widow's offering (Mark 12:40-44, Luke 21:1-4) is that generosity cannot be quantified. A large monetary donation may appear to others to be the most generous gift, and a much smaller contribution overlooked but God sees the significance of a gift even when others don't.

The widow, a woman herself in great need, was also a great giver. Her act is one which isn't just an example to us of what it means to give your all to others but how to give your all to God. She didn't hesitate from giving all that she had to live on because she had faith in God's promise to provide. 

In contrast, those who gave offerings in material excess of the widow's had given so that all could see but they had not given to the point where doing so was truly a sacrifice for them. 

If we're trying to be more generous, it might help if we think less in terms of a figure and more in terms of what plans or purchases we'll have to sacrifice as a result.

It's an act of the heart, not the head

"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly our under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver," (2 Corinthians 9:7)

A lot of the time generosity doesn't make sense on the surface. Take again the example of the widow, it doesn't make financial sense for her to give away more than she can afford, but she does anyway.

As Christians we can give without restraint because we know that God will take care of us and reward us abundantly. But we're not driven to give primarily because of an expectation to receive (2 Corinthians 9:6) but because we have already received (John 3:16).

God's love for us is displayed through the gifts that he gives us - His Son, mercy, salvation. Our love for one another should follow this pattern, it should inform the how and what of our giving. When it does and we give unreservedly, we're not just acting to demonstrate our love for the recipient of our generosity, we're also acting to show our love and appreciation for God, and to reveal Christ's love to others.