Recently, an occasion arose to come to the aid of a person who was in need. I was deeply touched when, at the mention of this need, two people immediately came and offered help. The amount offered was small, and yet it was huge. It touched me greatly to see the attitudes reflecting hearts brimful and running over with the love for mankind that God Himself possesses. It is not the dollar amount that matters; it is the vast store of generosity within the heart that God measures. God says it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).
God expects His children to be concerned about anyone who truly is in need. There are always those who wrongly take advantage of the generosity of people; but in spite of the abuse that will occasionally occur, the hearts of true followers of Jesus Christ lean toward being generous.
Jesus Christ spent much time teaching in the temple at Jerusalem. On one occasion He was watching people placing offerings into the containers and witnessed a woman with a generous heart (Luke 21:2). She would not have been the only one with such a heart, but she was the one Jesus used to teach His followers a wonderful lesson in generosity from God’s point of view. Jesus stated this woman had placed more into the offering (in God’s view) than those who were able and wealthy. It was not that the wealthy did not give a substantial offering. But the measurement God was looking at was not monetary—He was observing the generosity of the heart. He is able to multiply any amount we give.
Giving is part of the nature and character of Almighty God. John 3:16 states that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. There was no greater gift possible. It is interesting to note the recipients (all humanity) were not deserving of this gift and did not even know how to ask for such a precious blessing. It is also important to note this gift requires something from the receiver. God does not automatically cover all people with the blood of Christ. He offers the help and then observes our reactions and appreciation.
When we strive to conform to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and when we stir up the Spirit of God (2 Timothy 1:6), then our hearts must lean toward being generous. God’s Spirit imparts love, peace and joy within us and helps us reflect the character of God. His character is based upon love (1 John 4:8). Followers of Jesus Christ cannot help but have a caring and generous outlook toward others in this world. It is this heart Jesus glimpsed within the woman who gave two mites. The amount did not matter—the heart mattered a lot.
Peter and John had a generous heart, but they did not have silver or gold to give (Acts 3:6). There are other things a generous person can give besides money. When Jesus said that a rare person will lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13), He showed the way, and it is often in giving of our time, concern and care that we take from ourselves and give.
How different God’s nature is from the nature of mankind. Within the nature we possess, there are glimmers of God’s nature from time to time. Unconverted people can also be generous, but there are factors involved in true generosity that require conversion. To be converted from a carnal to a spiritual nature requires the Spirit of God (Romans 8:9).
Use wisdom in giving
The Holy Scriptures, which contain the words and directions from God to man, also teach us some concepts of balance even when our hearts are overflowing with generosity. It can be difficult to say “no” (even when we may need to), but the Bible teaches us that God too sometimes says no. He says no to evil, to unrepentant sinners and to all that stands against Him. That “no” is preceded by every chance for repentance from His generous heart, but the time will come when all have had a fair chance. He will separate those whose hearts He recognizes (Matthew 25: 32-35).
As God observes His children, He knows that our minds cannot grasp all the information that would allow us to make perfect decisions about who we are generous with. God never makes mistakes, but He does patiently endure the course mankind must follow as we search for Him. We may not have every fact, but we are to use wisdom as best we can in giving. Being generous does not mean giving foolishly.
The Bible says if a person refuses to work, he should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10). We may find it hard to enforce this, but the meaning of the verse is much deeper when we consider the intended lesson. Generosity is not helpful if it reinforces or encourages bad habits or conduct. As well, God expects a response of thankfulness.
Sometimes we need to gather additional information before deciding to be generous. Our generosity can be abused. It is a mistake to give to a person who misuses the gifts once we see that abuse.
In all of this, though, it is still God who oversees everything and expects us to respond. Jesus related the story of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37). The Samaritan did not know anything about the person he was helping. He went into danger to help, did not ask if the man was deserving, rich or poor or had any such qualifications. He simply gave! That is what a generous heart does. When a need is present, we give. We cannot give what we do not have, but what we have, we give.
We live in an age where money seems to rule and measure everything. Something precious has been lost when generosity is measured in the amount given rather than in the attitude and heart. Some of the greatest gifts we can possibly give have nothing to do with money. One such gift is comfort. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 we find that God is the God of comfort and He comforts us so we may comfort others.
True, godly love (referred to in the Greek New Testament by the term agape) is another gift that money cannot buy. There is an old saying: “The best things in life are free.” It rings with truth and begins with the gift of Jesus Christ to this world. Every person can give these truly precious gifts. The generous heart will give until the cup is “pressed down, shaken together, and running over” (Luke 6:38).
As we learn the wisdom of giving, we need to remember God sees all and He makes up the difference. Jesus said that not even the seemingly small gift of a cup of water will go without reward from God (Matthew 10:42). That is enough for us. It is God we are striving to please (1 Thessalonians 2:4), and we must give for God and because of God. This is the path God wants His children to follow. When we give, it is we who also receive. God wants to share His glory with His children forever. Here on earth is where we start.
True generosity stands in stark contrast to covetousness and greed that the Tenth Commandment forbids. Please read The Ten Commandments, especially the chapter on the Tenth Commandment, “True Righteousness Comes From the Heart.”