Last week, we looked at what the Bible teaches about our biblical financial identity, purpose, earning, and planning. This week, we’re taking a closer look at what the Bible says about generosity.
Designed for generosity
There are two Truths that sum up a biblical perspective on generosity: We were made in God’s image and God is endlessly generous. Is it any wonder that modern day researchers have found that the happiest people are generous people? To live generously is to live in concert with our God-given design.
The details about biblical generosity
Understanding our biblical financial identity (we’re stewards or wise builders) and pursuing our God-given purposes (to love God, love others, and to use our God-given gifts and passions to make a God-glorifying impact) lead to a distinct set of day-to-day financial priorities that make all the difference in how effectively and joyfully we manage money.
At the top of the priority list is generosity.
“Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” – Proverbs 3:9
Firstfruits means first portion. Crops? Well, another translation uses the word “increase.” In other words, our first priority for any money we receive—salary, commissions, gifts, an inheritance, etc.—is Christ-centered giving.
In God’s economy, we aren’t all instructed to give the same dollar amount; we’re taught to give based on a percentage of the money we receive.
“Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.” – Deuteronomy 16:17
“On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” – 1 Corinthians 16:2
God started His Old Testament followers with a tithe, or 10 percent.
“‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord.’” – Leviticus 27:30
In the New Testament, it’s clear that God doesn’t want us following His teaching in a mechanical manner as if checking off boxes on a to-do list. He wants our hearts involved.
“‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.’” – Matthew 23:23
Still, Jesus didn’t say to forget about the tithe. Just as with Old Testament teachings about murder and adultery, He taught His followers to move from a legalistic adherence to the letter of the law to a more heartfelt expression of the spirit of the law.
Coming at it from that perspective can have a profound impact on how we experience verses such as Matthew 6:21.
“Where your treasure is there too will be your heart.”
That isn’t a specific instruction. It’s broad and far-reaching, challenging us to consider what will happen to our heart if we use money in this way or that. One very positive implication is that consistently, generously supporting God’s work continuously orients our hearts toward Him and what He cares about, including:
- Reaching those who don’t know Him.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” – Matthew 28:18-20
- Providing for the poor.
“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” – Proverbs 19:17
- Supporting teachers of His Word.
“Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor.” – Galatians 6:6
Throughout the New Testament, references to the tithe are few, while exhortations toward generous living are many. Ten percent becomes a reference point—the biblical, historical starting point, but not the intended stopping point.
“But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” – 2 Corinthians 8:7
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. – 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Perhaps most challenging of all, at a time when the prosperity gospel is leading so many astray, are the many reminders of the blessings that flow from living generously.
“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” – Proverbs 11:24-25
It’s just how things work in God’s economy. When we live the generous lives God intended for us, the Inventor of generosity sends blessings back to us.
Still, we need to keep our motives in check. We are not to give in order to receive something back.
“Who has ever given to God that God should repay them?” – Romans 11:35
Our giving is best motivated by gratitude—because of all that God has done for us.
“But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. – 1 Chronicles 29:14
Ultimately, generosity as an act of worship.
So, what does the Bible say about generosity? Quite a bit. But here’s the bottom line: We were made in God’s image and God is endlessly generous. That means we were designed to live generously as well.