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An Irrational Financial Act

Of all the things we can do with money, giving it away seems completely, utterly irrational, doesn’t it? After all, we work hard for what we earn. And after paying all the bills and putting a little aside for the future, there just isn’t anything left to give, right?

Well, it turns out that generosity is an essential part of a financial life that works well. Here are three reasons why.

Generosity is part of Our design

The Bible says we were each made in God’s image, and since God is endlessly generous, that means generosity is woven into the fabric of our spiritual DNA.

When we don’t give, or give only token amounts, or give from a sense of guilt or obligation, we deprive ourselves of one of life’s great joys. But when we give generously with grateful hearts, we live in concert with our design. It’s no wonder that researchers who study human happiness have found that generous people are generally happier and find life more meaningful than those who are not generous.

Generosity reminds us of Our priorities

The Bible says,

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” – Matthew 6:21

I remember a time when my wife, Jude, wanted to give some money to a friend doing missionary work in a country that I wasn’t sure I could find it on a map. Up to that time, I never thought of that country. It wasn’t on my radar screen at all.

However, after we started sending some money there, I noticed every time the country was in the news. And I took great interest in each letter Jude’s friend wrote about her work.

My heart went there because some of our money was going there.

Giving regularly and generously to support God’s work in the world is a very powerful way to keep our hearts focused on God.

Generosity leads to blessings

My friend Michael was in the alley in back of his home one morning when he saw a homeless man picking through the garbage. Prompted by a message he heard in church the previous weekend, Michael struck up a conversation with the man. Then he offered him some money.

As he reached into his pocket, Michael was dismayed to discover that all he had was a fifty-dollar bill. That was a lot more than he intended to give. But since he had already committed to giving the man some money, he gave it anyway. Clearly, it was a lot more than the man expected as well, because when he saw how much money it was he cried.

Later that morning Michael was at a building supply store purchasing materials for some renovation work he was doing. As he waited in a long line, a store employee approached him and unexpectedly gave him a certificate for 10 percent off his purchase. Michael was the only one in the line to receive a certificate. When the cashier rang up his purchase, it came to $490. Michael was stunned. The 10 percent savings covered all but $1 of what he gave away that morning.

Now he was the one with tears in his eyes. Out of the many customers in line, why was he the one given a discount? Why would he get back almost exactly what he had given away that morning? He doesn’t know for sure, but all he could think of was that maybe it was God’s way of expressing his pleasure at seeing Michael’s kindness toward the man in the alley, and encouraging him to continue down the path of financial generosity.

I am very confident that giving in order to get something from God is nothing less than an affront to God. I want nothing to do with the prosperity gospel.

Biblical generosity is motivated by gratitude; it’s a response to God’s generosity.

Still, many passages of Scripture clearly state that there are blessings that flow from generosity, such as Proverbs 11:24:

“One man gives freely yet gains even more. Another withholds unduly but comes to poverty.”

Some people trace material blessings to their giving. Others experience blessings related to their health, relationships, sense of peace, and more. Still others find it easier to live within their means and experience financial freedom when they start giving.

It seems irrational. It doesn’t make sense on a spreadsheet. It’s one of those hard-to-explain but impossible-to-deny realities that there is a link between generosity fueled by a grateful heart and blessings. We were simply designed to live generously, and our lives work best when we live as we were designed to live.

Those are three of the key factors that motivate our generosity: We were designed to live generously, doing so reminds us of our priorities, and it leads to blessings. How about you?

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8 Responses to An Irrational Financial Act

  1. Skip Galanes September 13, 2017 at 9:40 AM #

    Thank you, Matt, for these words of truth. Another angle on generosity is that when we are willing to give, we affirm that our security rests with God and not our bank accounts; and, when we are reluctant to give, the opposite tends to be true that we are relying on ourselves instead.

    • Matt Bell September 13, 2017 at 3:44 PM #

      Great to see you here, Skip. Brings back lots of fond memories from my Good $ense days!

      And amen to your point about how giving affirms that our security rests with God. Brings to mind David’s words as recorded in 1 Chronicles 29:14: “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.”

  2. Mary September 12, 2017 at 4:33 PM #

    Great article as usual. We have always tithed and there have been months where we wondered how we were going to make ends meet On paper it seemed impossible but by the end of the month all bills were payed. God is generous and good and watches over our ever need.

    • Matt Bell September 12, 2017 at 8:09 PM #

      Thanks, Mary. What you’re describing is what we used to call “God’s math” when I served in Willow Creek’s stewardship ministry, Good $ense.

  3. Brad Brestel September 12, 2017 at 2:24 PM #

    Thanks for the article Matt, appreciate you and your content! Giving money away breaks the addictive power of hoarding, and blesses the giver as well. Keep up the good emails!

    • Matt Bell September 12, 2017 at 4:30 PM #

      Thanks for your feedback, Brad. You’re so right — there’s something about giving that loosens the grip our consumer culture has on us.

  4. Steveark September 12, 2017 at 11:38 AM #

    I agree, on paper I’d have at least another million invested, maybe considerably more if we hadn’t always tithed on our gross income plus giving generously to others. But in reality I think I would have less because giving kept money in its proper place and made me a friendlier more likeable person which led to a much higher paid career.Plus we have way more than I needed to retire early.

    • Matt Bell September 12, 2017 at 1:03 PM #

      Great point about how generosity keeps money in its proper place. It’s hard to put a price tag on that!

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