Proverbs 11:24, “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty”
The NIV translation of Proverbs 11:24 renders it this way, “One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty”. What is a generous giver and would you consider yourself one? When we think of generosity, we might look at the size of the gift or the nobility of the cause. We might call someone “generous,” for example, who contributes a modest sum to a charitable cause to promote the good of society. However, Jesus measured generosity by a radically new standard: the condition of the giver’s heart. The apostle Paul said that even the most lavish donations are empty acts in God’s sight if the giver’s heart is hardened toward him (1 Corinthians 13:3). So, a truly generous giver is, first, a person who has been reconciled to God through faith in Christ, whose perfect life and sacrificial death can generously free any person from sin. Once this gospel works its way deep into that person’s heart and mind, the stage is set for a new person to emerge: a generous giver. Such a person is characterized by several particular attitudes and behaviors:
(1) A generous giver experiences the joy of giving. When giving, it doesn’t feel like a burden but a pleasure.
(2) A generous giver lives and gives with an eternal perspective, and is unconcerned with how much they own in this life because their attention is on the age to come.
(3) A generous giver models the proverb, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b). They not only believe these words of Jesus, but actually prefer giving over getting, so that they regularly choose to give more and receive less.
(4) A generous giver recognizes that God owns everything. If God owns everything and we are simply His steward, then what does He want us to do with His stuff? The Bible gives a number of answers to this question, some of which would include, saving (Proverbs 6:6-8), investing (Matthew 25:14-30), providing for family (Proverbs 13:22), staying out of debt (Proverbs 22:7; Romans 13:8) and more. However, the Bible gives special attention to one use in particular: giving. To give (especially to the poor) is equivalent to lending to the Lord (Proverbs 19:17). To give (especially to the poor) is equivalent to investing your money in heaven itself (Luke 12:33). Giving is the fitting response to God’s gift of his Son to us (2 Corinthians 8:7-9). Giving (especially to our enemies) is a way of imitating the redeeming love of God (Luke 6:35). In the end, each of us will give an account to the Lord for how we handled His “stuff” in the time we had on earth. A person doesn’t cling to possessions because they don’t believe that they truly own them anyway. Their goal is to put God’s money where God wants it and where the money will do the most good.
(5) A generous giver offers gifts as an act of worship. Their driving motivation is neither self-concern nor love for others, but love for God. The most important truth in their life is God’s saving love in Christ, and they give in order to thank and to honor God. Generous individuals also enjoy giving of themselves to help others. One may be generous with time, volunteering to help in places such as soup kitchens or crisis shelters. One may be generous with money, giving to individuals or to charities that help individuals. One does not have to be rich to be generous. Children who save up their coins to give away or who devote time to helping package Christmas gifts for poor children are practicing generosity as well. You could say that generosity is the opening of one’s heart, giving of one’s time and/or wallet to provide help to others. Other words for it are unselfishness and kindness; however, the opposite of generosity would be stinginess or selfishness.
What about God our Creator? How has He showed His generosity to us? Well for starters, in the original creation, He placed Adam and Eve in an indescribably beautiful garden, and gave them freedom to enjoy all the magnificence and bounty of His creation. Moreover, God has also shown enormous generosity in His work of redemption. By giving His Son Jesus Christ as our Savior, He displayed His generous love for the whole world. No one can look seriously at Calvary and doubt God’s generosity. The apostle Paul wrote, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” … (2 Corinthians 9:15). He also alluded to God’s extraordinary generosity in 1 Timothy 6:17. He wrote, “God giveth us richly all things to enjoy. Also, in Acts 20:35, Paul attributed the words “It is more blessed to give than to receive” to the Lord Jesus.
The book of Proverbs emphasizes generosity, and its teaching is relevant for every believer who has accepted Christ as Lord and Savior of their life. Our generosity ought to contrast sharply with the materialistic ways of the wacky world in which we live. Generosity should be a constant virtue within our lives. Jesus taught His disciples to be content with food and raiment while on this earth. Their focus was to be on storing up treasure in Heaven. Hoarding is contrary to the teachings of Jesus. It is also contrary to the teaching of Solomon, who taught that we should hold God’s material blessings with open hands. Often we think of generosity as an obligation; here it is viewed as an opportunity. Moreover, while this may seem inconsistent to those of us who believe a tight fist rather than an open hand will lead to gain, the Bible goes to considerable lengths to show this to be false, such as.
(1) Psalm 12:5, “Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely …”; (2) Proverbs 13:11, “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but the that gathered by labour shall increase”; (3) Ecclesiastes 11:1, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again ..”; (4) Luke 6:38, “Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you …”; (5) Luke 12:33, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted …”; (6) 2 Corinthians 9:6, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously …”; and, (7) 1 Timothy 6:18-19, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life”
The wisdom of the Old Testament confirms the wisdom of generosity. Job, for example, reminds us that this life is a naked-come and naked-go affair. Unthinkable amounts of money may be here at one moment and gone the next. Therefore, it is no less than utter foolishness to hoard more than we need. Whether gradually throughout life or suddenly at death, all our money will be lost (Job 27:16-17; Proverbs 23:5; Luke 12:13-21). While the Lord gives and takes away, our part is simple: We are to use the resources we have at the present moment in wise and generous ways characterized by a continual concern for the poor and immediate openness to their needs (Job 29:11-17; 31:16-25). Ecclesiastes highlights the wisdom of generosity by illustrating the foolishness of failing to give.
The “Teacher” describes his life at the top with limitless wealth and endless opportunity (Ecclesiastes 1:1, 12). This man denied himself nothing his eyes desired and pursued everything he fancied to the ninth degree (Ecclesiastes 2:10). He achieved professional success as a businessman, architect, artist and engineer. And all of this made him extremely rich: “I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces” (Ecclesiastes 2:8). But in the end, it was all gain without gain; “everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:11). As Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
Let us remember it isn’t the amount we give toward helping the Lord’s work; it’s our motive that He looks at. Thus, our attitude and especially proper motives are very essential in our service, whether it’s our money, time or talents. The Lord is more concerned with why we give than with how much we give. We should never give to receive the praise of others, but because we love God and desire to see His name honored and glorified. The Apostle Paul said, “Let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Whenever we give to the work of God, may it be honestly said, “It’s for the Lord!” So, are you a generous giver and, if so, do you:
(1) Experience the joy of giving?
(2) Live and give with an eternal perspective?
(3) Model the Proverbs … “It is more blessed to give than to receive”?
(4) Acknowledge that God owns everything?
(5) Offer gifts as an act of worship?
Always remember that God sees the giver as well as the gift – the heart as well as the hand.