Put your dollar bills down for a minute and listen.
Generosity is not ultimately about your money.
But what about all of those starving kids in Africa? What about all of those books I read that guilted me into cancelling the cable and internet (although, I am now stealing my neighbor’s unsecured wifi! oops.) What about scrimping and saving so that I can give to the needy?
Again, I say, generosity is not ultimately about your money.
Earlier this week I wrote about how penny-pinching and frugality has become a kind of Christian virtue. Inevitably, the argument arises: “Well, you have to be frugal if you are going to have money to give to others.” It’s my job today to put that whole pattern of thinking to rest.
What’s Mine is Mine. Here’s Some for You.
The first problem with this line of thinking is that it creates false categories. The reasoning is that we have to live on less so that we can give away more. I am frugal so that I can be more generous. That sounds right…right?
However, this perspective operates from a flawed understanding of Christian living: I have things that are mine, and I take some of the things that are mine, and I give them to you. I live off of 80% of my income so that I can give away 20%. I choose to unsubscribe from Comcast so that I can give that money away.
I’m not saying it’s a bad choice to choose to support a child through Compassion International instead of buying an expensive cell phone data plan. In fact, more of us need to do this very type of thing. However, this mindset further entrenches the idea that there are things that are mine, and there are things that I choose to give away.
We have to realize that generosity does not require us to give away 10%, 20%, or 50%. True generosity realizes that nothing is yours. Not your house. Not your car. Not your family. Not your T.V. and that expensive cable package. Not your money. None of it is yours. God doesn’t expect you to give away just 20%. He expects you to give it all away.
God Only Wants Your Money.
“Nooo! That’s not true! That’s impossible!” you scream (in your best Luke Skywalker voice). How could God expect you to give away all of your money? Psalm 24:1 states, “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” Everything you have has been given to you by God. We have to get over the concept that generosity only means giving people money.
Our money is a very, very, very small percentage of all of the resources God has given. It’s easy to send money to a problem overseas. It’s easy to set up a monthly withdraw on your bank account to support a ministry. It’s harder to be generous with your time–giving up a busy schedule to share your life with others. It’s harder to be generous with your home–opening it up to strangers and people unlike you. It’s harder to share your food–being willing to allow others to take part in the intimacy of family meals.
Money is so impersonal. As Americans we think that throwing money at problems is the way to solve them. Christian generosity recognizes that Jesus didn’t just give us his money (honestly, he didn’t have any). He didn’t just spend a day on earth to die on the cross and be like, “Peace out!” He lived here. He ate with us. He grew up and spent life with us. The cross was always his focus, but his generosity meant he became like us in every way; he shared everything in common with us (Hebrews 4:15).
But I Don’t Wanna Share Everything.
That’s going to make eternity tough for you. When you enter into the Kingdom of God, you do so through participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In Him, you find the gracious favor of God the Father, and you become a fellow heir with Christ (Romans 8:17). You stand in a royal lineage as the heir to the glorious riches of Christ’s inheritance (Ephesians 1:11,14,18).
Pardon me…WE. WE stand to inherit with Christ.
Do you realize that everything we have, we have in common. We all cling to the same Christ; we stand to inherit the whole earth. WE do. How should that effect the way you view everything you currently have? If you share the same glorious inheritance with every other believer in Christ, shouldn’t that reality shape the way we live now? Eternal life has begun in the local church. We experience sharing in Christ now. Not just the 20% you set aside for generosity. Your house, your family, your car, your money, your everything–it just makes sense to share all things. This is what Peter calls us to in 1 Peter 4:10–“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
Frugality is Less Messy.
Let’s be honest. I would rather give a homeless person $10 and be able to drive away. I would rather add “Generous Giving” as a line item to my budget, give away the money each month, and check it off my virtues checklist. I would rather tighten my financial belt so that I can give money away each month and wipe my hands clean.
These are all great things, but they can become a false front. Sometimes we like the idea of being frugal in order to give away the extra because it doesn’t require us to get our hands dirty. If we can give away $100 a month, it frees us from the guilt that we don’t spend time with the needy. If we support overseas missions, it helps us swallow the fact that we don’t do anything missional in our own community.
Generosity should leave you with messy hands. Think about the example of the Good Samaritan. Better yet, think about Jesus. After all the clamoring hands of the huddled masses, the sweaty hours of ministry with the diseased and ill, the spit of the religious leaders, the splinters of the cross, and the blood and gore of his crucifixion, I’d say Jesus’ generosity knew no limit…and it left Him rather dirty.
And when he rose, he did not offer his disciples a percentage. He said, “What’s mine is yours.”