Living “The Life That Is Truly Life”

Money is a tough enough topic for a lot of folks, but put the focus on giving and many people get really uncomfortable. So, feeling much like I’m stepping into a lion’s den, I’d like to inch my way into an honest conversation about generosity.

Before you click away, let me just bottom-line my overarching point of view. Far too many of us are missing out on one of the most joyful—and one of the most effective—uses of money.

I’m not at all a fan of the prosperity gospel. In fact, I think it’s an affront to God to give out of a motivation for getting something in return. As the apostle Paul said,

Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? – Romans 11:35

Good question. God is the giver. We are the recipients. Every time we give to our church or other ministry, we’re simply giving back some of what God first gave us.

Which is why it can be challenging to fully understand verses such as Proverbs 11:25:

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.

Or Luke 6:38:

Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. (NLT) 

Motivations matter

In no way are we to interpret such verses as teaching, “give in order to get.” Giving is best motivated not by an “in order to…” perspective, but by a “because of..” Perspective — because of God’s love for us. 

And yet, it’s clear that there are blessings that come our way when we live generously. It’s simply that we were designed to live that way. It’s like eating healthy and getting enough exercise. Our lives work better when we choose to live as we were designed to live.

The Bible says we were made in God’s image, and God is endlessly generous. That means generosity is woven into our spiritual DNA. To live generously is to live in concert with how we were made and what we were made to be about.

And yet, many of us either have not heard that we were designed to live that way or we’re consciously choosing not to live that way.

Here are the results of several recent studies about generosity:

  • According to Nonprofit Source, nationwide, Christians today give 2.5 percent of their income, only 5 percent of church members give regularly, and 37 percent of those who consider themselves evangelicals do not give to churches at all. 
  • According to a study from the University of Notre Dame, only 2.7 percent of people, religious or nonreligious, give at the level of a tithe (10% of income). 
  • According to a Barna Group study, 84 percent of millennials report to giving less than $50 to charity per year, even though charitable giving ranks high on their priorities. 

Listing these research findings isn’t intended to shame anyone or make anyone feel guilty. Mostly it’s to say, “Wow, I’m surprised.” And it’s also to say I think too many of us are missing out on “the life that is truly life.”

If you’re not giving, or not giving very much, I’d like to encourage you to spend some time this week reflecting on that. What’s holding you back from living more generously? Or, if you are giving generously, is there a next step you sense God encouraging you to take with your generosity? 

Next week, I’ll get more specific about what the Bible teaches about living a life of generosity.

Take it to heart: “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

Take action: If you don’t already know this, figure out what percentage of your income you are currently giving. As we’ll discuss more next week, the Bible teaches us, in part, to think of giving as a portion of our income, so it’s helpful to know what portion (what percentage) we’re giving.

Read more: Living a Better Financial Story 

For ideas on cultivating a heart of generosity in your children, pick up a copy of my new book, Trusted: Preparing Your Kids for a Lifetime of God-Honoring Money Management.

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