I have always admired generous people. As a young girl, I loved watching people in the church serve the Lord joyfully and wanted to serve with them. I listened at annual meetings to the ways the church members generously provided funds and that shaped how I wanted to hold loosely to my finances.
And then I grew up. I got older, got a job, got married and had 3 kids - it became clear that the reality of generosity was oh so different and much more difficult than I realised..
Time, Talent and Treasures
Over and over the Bible references three concepts of generosity: giving of your time, talent (gifts and abilities) and treasures (financial resources). (see Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 12:34, Matthew 6:19, 2 Corinthians 9:6-8)
You may find yourself naturally gravitating towards or away from one or more of them. It can be easy for us to think about generosity in terms of what is comfortable, or where we easily slot in. As if generosity is about me!
When we were preparing to come to London as missionaries, I was talking with an older, mature Christian woman. She asked me what we were hoping to do in ministry when we arrived in the UK. I had my well crafted and prepared answer ready. Boy was it slick. I launched into my full presentation. I shared about theatre arts and music ministry and working with children. My passion and excitement was out in full force! When I finished, she paused.
“What do you hate doing?” she asked.
I wasn’t exactly sure where she was going with her question, but my answer came easily: CLEANING! And more specifically, cleaning toilets.
She continued “What if, when you arrive in London, the ministry offered to you is cleaning toilets. Would you still be passionate about coming to London to serve the Lord?”
Giving myself to God’s work was not about me, my plans, my comfort or doing what came naturally to me, but rather following Him in obedience. To give Him my time, talent and treasures, in whatever way He asks, requires a generous and open heart.
What’s the Cost?
The concept of sacrificial giving is mentioned throughout scripture.
• Abraham and his son Isaac - Genesis 22
• The early Church - Acts 2:42-47
• The widow and Elijah - 1 Kings 17:7-16
• The woman and the perfume - Matthew 26:6-13
These all have something in common - the offering, the generosity was costly. The cost of a son, possessions, the last of the food, a year’s worth of wages…
2 Samuel 24:24 I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.
When we give generously, it should cost us. Giving my leftovers and extras isn’t sacrificial is it? Costly giving is a reminder that I am giving back to God what is rightfully His in the first place. I’m giving to Him out of gratefulness for what He’s given me.
I have time to offer, because He made the day and night.
I have treasure to offer, because He has provided work and finances.
I have talent to offer, because He created me in His image.
The God who sacrificially gave His one and only Son, Jesus, invites me to follow His lead in generous giving. Giving that costs, sacrificial giving, that is what leads to a joyful heart.
II Corinthians 9:7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.