Generosity Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Generosity

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An exhibit of self-giving love, generosity is the glad readiness to give liberally to others and the practice of doing so.

In Scripture

God's generosity "Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?" (Matt. 20:15). "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" (John 3:16). "For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9).

Generosity in God's people "Take from among you an offering to the Lord; let whoever is of a generous heart bring the Lord's offering: gold, silver, and bronze" (Ex. 35:5). "Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want" (Prov. 11:24). "When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you" (Matt. 6:3 - 4). "He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, `Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on'" (Luke 21:1 - 4). "The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. . . .You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us" (2 Cor. 9:6 - 7, 11) "As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share" (1 Tim. 6:17 - 18)

The Bible's particular interest in generosity to the poor "When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien: I am the Lord your God" (Lev. 19:9 - 10). "Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and will be repaid in full" (Prov. 19:17) "In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, `It is more blessed to give than to receive'" (Acts 20:35).

Points to Ponder

Forms of generosity We usually think of generosity as openhandedness with material goods (principally money), but one may be generous as well with "possessions, time, attention, aid, encouragement, emotional availability, and more." Except for possessions, each of these things is nonmaterial. Indeed, some of the greatest forms of generosity in the universe are nonmaterial, such as God's grace for sinners manifested in the self-giving death of Jesus Christ. As the parable of the unmerciful servant shows, God's prime generosity to us in forgiveness is meant to spur our generosity to others.

Generosity toward other's motives and acts The generous person may offer money or possessions — or time, attention, or encouragement — but he may also be magnanimous in assessing other people's motives and acts by giving others the benefit of the doubt, or by putting the best face on their motives and acts. A person does something right and you say, "That's who she is." A person does something wrong and you say, "That's an aberration."

The Bible's particular interest in generosity to the poor Texts here from Leviticus and Proverbs show the Bible's particular interest in generosity to the poor, to those who cannot be generous in kind and in return. But Luke 21 shows us a noble widow who is a sort of counterexample. She does not give a lot of money, but she does give self-sacrificially, displaying the heart of generosity. To give out of abundance is wonderful; to give out of want is heroic. Sonia Nazario's Enrique's Journey is memorable in part because it gives us vignettes of impoverished villagers who spot Central American kids riding the tops of boxcars toward the U.S. and then give them food they really cannot spare. They might have one tamale a day and give the kids half of it.

Private and public generosity In Matthew 6 Jesus recommends giving "in secret," no doubt to counteract the kind of giving that is motivated by hunger for publicity. But not all public giving is so motivated. Some is intended as a challenge and incentive to other givers: "I gave $$$. How about you?" Givers, too, may stir each other to good works.

Generosity benefits the giver Proverbs 11 and 2 Corinthians 9 represent a strand of biblical teaching that recognizes that generosity also benefits the giver. Givers tend to thrive. They don't finally lose by giving. Indeed, scientific evidence supports the thesis that, in generosity, those who do good also do well. Does this corrupt their motives? Not necessarily. Healthy givers act out of gratitude for God's generosity to them and out of love of neighbor. They do not give just to insure their own thriving, but it is not wrong for them to notice that those who act generously do in fact tend to thrive.

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.