Living Generously

How does a person live generously? Why does a person give freely? I thought this would be an easy article to kick out, at first, but upon deeper reflection it became complicated. For all the examples of people in my life who have exhibited generosity, I could find no pattern to their modus operandi. All of them gave for different reasons. Which leaves me with the question, why do people share what they have?

To get at this question, I need to point out some reasons people give away their time and possessions. Some give out of abundance. Some give out of guilt. Some give because they are motivated by a cause. Some give out of love for God. Some give out of an obedience to God. Some give out of anger. Some give out of peer pressure. Some give to get something in return. Some give for personal gain or recognition. I am not sure how long this list could go, but I think you get the idea. People give for all sorts of reasons.

This lead me to another question. Why do some people refuse to share what they have? Again there were several reasons. Some say what is mine in mine and what is yours is yours. Some say they have nothing to give. Some don’t believe in the cause that is appealing to them. Some don’t believe in any greater power that humans. Some find it financially foolish. This list also goes on and on.

This led me to ask myself why do I give away my time and possessions. I remember, as a child in church, children were given kid envelopes. Most from what I saw got a dime or quarter from their parents, put it in the envelope, and put it in the offering plate. While that was nice, I can’t say that shaped my adulthood giving.

What did influence me as a child was watching what my parents did. They gave away money and time to church, family, and causes. They weren’t high on the economic ladder, but daddy put money in the envelope every week and put it in the offering plate. I observed when they helped out someone at work who hit a bad patch in life. It really had an impact on me when they gave (help in kind or money) to a relative or friend and it affected our own lifestyle. I think I was more concerned about MY lifestyle than theirs. This influenced me because I observed that a person could care enough for another person at their own expense and not think twice about it. It hit me hardest when they gave sacrificially for me to go to college and seminary so that I could “do better” than them.

In college and seminary, I was taking in more than I was giving out. All I had was time. But the time that I had, I did give away. In college, I helped tutor kids for free. I walked for all sorts of causes. I wanted to give what I could. Those early adulthood experiences seem to feed my desire to share with others. It wasn’t just the right thing to do, but it connected me to the pains and sufferings of other people. I did not live unto myself. My life was for more than just my personal gain.

When I got to the point of having a job and making money, the rubber hit the road. So excited at having money, I had to ask myself, how much do you really want to give away. I will be honest there was some soul searching went on. . I’ll be even more honest. I started out softly, even though I was not comfortable with the decision. Money does that to you.

In a few short years, my giving away of time and money increased. What happened to me? There are several reasons. First, I had more disposable income to share. That is just a fact. We are more apt to give out of our abundance if we are inclined to give in the first place. Second, I was challenged to give more. In a young church there were needs like building campaigns that raised my level of giving. After the campaign, I simply left it where it was because I had learned to live without it. Third, I slowly increased my giving annually. It climbed year over year and has for years. Fourth, my giving was no longer out of abundance was more sacrificial in nature. There are months I dream of what I could do with that money. They call that temptation. But over time it has been less a temptation. It has become more a joy that I can do it.
What I have learned as a pastor and had it affirmed by other pastors of all denominations is the following.

  1. Just because people have a lot of money doesn’t mean that they share it. On the other hand, some wealthy folks give generously because they can and want to.
  2. Some of the biggest percentage givers are the ones with the least income.
  3. Some people are more willing to give to one time causes than they are willing to give to day to day operations.
  4. Some people are just generous with everything they have – time, money, and talent.
  5. Some folks have a hard time giving from what they have because they are embarrassed by the amount they can afford. (one should never feel ashamed)
  6. Incremental or annual increases of giving will increase a person’s giving more than anything.
  7. Giving out of guilt does not last. Giving out of love increases.

My question for you is why do YOU give? What led you to give as you do? Were you taught to share what you have? Do you teach your children to share? Are you comfortable with where you are in your giving? Have you ever been challenged to give more? Is giving of yourself something that you ponder on occasion?

I can’t answer any of those for you. Only you can answer them or even choose to ponder them. Being Christian I am moved by how Jesus shared his life. I am not just talking about His death and resurrection, but I am talking about his everyday life. He didn’t worry about himself as much as he thought of others. He challenged the disciples along the way but he didn’t belittle them. He loved them. I think God loves us as well. I think God challenges us also. God challenges us to not worry so much about ourselves as we do about our family, friends, and strangers. And, I think and believe, that the more we turn our hearts toward Him and the care of our neighbors, the deeper we enter the life of Christ and living generously for others.

Thank you for ALL that YOU give!!!!!!

See you at church,
Pastor Bob