The Unexpected Benefits of Generosity

man holding cash

What happens when you stop giving God your leftovers.

You’ve graduated college and are working full time. Now, every month, your employer deposits money into your checking account. Oddly, when your paycheck hits your account, you experience a paradoxical sense of freedom and burden.

You like that you are free to do whatever you want with the money, but you don’t want to make a mistake. And since you want your life to matter, you want to use your money in a way that matters. You might think generosity is a part of the equation, but you aren’t sure what that looks like.

For many, giving is something that occurs after all the bills have been paid and the needs, and maybe a few wants, are met. The amount they give is determined by the dollars left in their bank accounts at the end of the month.

They’re giving their leftovers. Many people do this. It’s comfortable. It’s painless.

But is it biblical?

This is a great question to consider. As believers, we should wrestle with whether or not our giving aligns with what the Bible teaches about generosity, an important tool for advancing God’s kingdom.

Giving first has real ramifications.

Throughout Scripture, God tells us to give our first and our best. Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.”

For most of us, this means that we give a portion of our income. And we’re to ensure that this giving is accounted for before any other uses of our money. It’s here where we often struggle with giving. We quickly realize that putting generosity first has alarming consequences for our finances and lives.

1. Things get uncomfortable.

In 2 Samuel 24:24, King David was offered everything he needed, without cost, to make a sacrifice. But David turns down the gift. This is his response: “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” Scan the Bible — God never paints a picture of painless generosity. There is always cost involved. Sacrifice accompanies biblical generosity.

You probably already know about the word tithe — a term found in the Bible that means 10 percent. Giving away 10 percent of your income is a good target. But be careful not to let tithing become just a box to check on your spiritual health checklist. You can hit the 10 percent mark and still not experience sacrificial giving.

Consider the story of the widow’s gift in Luke 21:1-4. While others were giving large amounts of money to the temple, the widow gave only two coins — yet she’s the one Jesus pointed out, saying we should mimic. Why? Sacrifice. She gave everything.

The zeroes on a check are not what matters most. God cares more about what’s left at home than what’s put in the offering plate. In God’s economy, amount sacrificed always supersedes amount given.

When giving becomes our financial priority, everything else must take a back seat, including wants and needs. This is sacrifice. And it will be uncomfortable at times. But then again, when have you ever heard of a comfortable sacrifice?

2. Motivations for saving change.

If giving becomes our priority, do we get rid of other smart financial practices, like saving for an emergency or retirement? Of course not. The Bible doesn’t tell us just to give generously (2 Corinthians 8:1-7), but also says to save wisely (Proverbs 6:6-8) and live appropriately (Matthew 6:19-21).

But having generosity as a priority does change our motivation for everything else. With this priority, all other activities are there to support, not erode, generous giving and living. So we don’t save to hoard. Instead, we save to give.

By setting aside three to six months of living expenses for an unforeseen emergency, you not only have money to get through the emergency, but your generosity also doesn’t take a hit. By being smart with your spending, you can avoid debt that can kill generosity. Saving and smart spending become tools to keep your generosity moving forward.

Our motivations change because our priorities have changed.

3. Contentment and joy increase.

To give generously, we sacrifice. But here’s the irony — sacrificing leads us to greater contentment and joy. First, money and stuff no longer have a hold on you. Sacrifice is a good indication that you are not controlled by possessions, rather you control them.

Second, sacrificing shows that you are eternity-focused. In Isaiah 53:10, God was pleased by the sacrifice of Jesus. How was it possible for Him to be pleased in the death of His Son? God looked through the lens of eternity and saw the ultimate outcome. And when you are eternity-focused with your money, you can find pleasure in the midst of sacrifice as well.

Finally, Matthew 6:21 says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Our hearts are drawn to our treasure. When we sacrificially give to advance God’s kingdom, are hearts will be drawn to the things of God. And we’ll only find real contentment and joy in the things of God.

4. Eternity is changed.

In “The Treasure Principle,” Randy Alcorn wrote, “Giving is a giant lever positioned on the fulcrum of this world, allowing us to move mountains in the next world. Because we give, eternity will be different — for others and for us.” I love that quote because it reminds me that God uses our generosity for His work.

When we give, we get to be a part of impacting others, both presently and eternally. If you want to make a difference in this world, be generous.

Multiply your impact by prioritizing generosity.

As you read this, you may think that you simply don’t have enough money to give, that generosity is for the wealthy. I can understand the feeling. Fortunately, you are wrong. Remember, amount sacrificed always supersedes amount given.

Why? Because we serve a God of multiplication. We serve a God who took the small but sacrificial gift from a boy — two fish and five loaves of bread — and fed 5,000. And He can do the same with your sacrificial generosity. When you prioritize giving, you are a part of something significant, something lasting — advancing God’s kingdom.

So what practical steps can you take?

First, seek out God in prayer regarding your generosity. Ask God to provide you a clear heart and mind about the amount you should give.

Second, respond to God’s leading. Add generosity to your budget. An addition or increase in generosity will consequentially lead to a decrease in other expenditures. Start making sacrifices in other areas to prioritize your giving.

Finally, if you haven’t done so yet, start making regular gifts to your local church. If there’s any online giving option, set up automatic, recurring giving. Prioritize giving to your church by making the gift occur on the same day you get paid.

The shift from giving God your leftovers to giving your first and best has consequences. Things will get uncomfortable. You’ll have to sacrifice. But make no mistake — it’s worth it. You’ll find your contentment and joy increasing because you are aligning with God’s design for you and your money.

Copyright 2018 Art Rainer. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Art Rainer

Art Rainer is the vice president of Institutional Advancement at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes widely about issues related to finance, wealth and generosity, and is the author of “The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money” and most recently “The Marriage Challenge: A Finance Guide for Married Couples.” Art lives in Wake Forest, North Carolina, with his wife, Sarah, and their three children.