Written by Alyssa Esparaz
As someone who works for a non-profit, I’m keenly aware of the complexities the topic of giving can bring. At the first sign of a conversation on generosity, we often reach to protect our wallets, our minds immediately fixated on money.
But I’d like to suggest we are shortchanging this beautiful, transformative spiritual practice when we dismiss it as just being about giving away tons of money.
Scripture talks at length about how giving and generosity are part of our spiritual lives. The complexities related to giving are discussed and grappled with in raw, honest, and sometimes uncomfortable ways.
We can look to passages like the widow’s offering (Mark 12:41-44), the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27), or the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) for challenging examples.
Having compassion and seeking justice on behalf of the poor and the oppressed is mentioned hundreds of times in Scripture. Caring for one another and making room for people at the table is a major theme of Scripture. Jesus-followers are invited to give of themselves as a living sacrifice.
What do you value?
While giving financially is an important and significant way to practise generosity, I think we can widen our lens on what we value and therefore what we can be generous with. For example, consider one of the most famous Bible verses about giving: “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” (Luke 6:38, NIV).
This verse is smack in the middle of a passage about judgment, and more specifically, the judgment we pass on others. While Luke 6:38 is certainly a beautiful verse about giving in general, the context invites me to think about generosity in a new way.
Perhaps it is an invitation to be generous in our judgment of others. We definitely value our own judgment quite often, so what would it look like to be generous with our judgment? How might forgiveness and the benefit of the doubt be a gift to the people in our lives?
I think such conversations often revert to money because we all value money on some level, which is why we are invited to be generous with our finances. But what other things do you value? Thinking about how we treat resources like time, space, relational energy, and knowledge can be powerful in widening our view of generosity.
What does generosity look like in real life?
It’s easy to think you don’t have a lot to give, especially if you’re young. But the idea of waiting to give until you have more is a dangerous one. It’s wisely said that if you don’t give while you have little, you won’t give when you have much.
Here are three practical ways to think about giving:
1. Give consistently. Making giving a habit like daily prayer or devotionals integrates it into your everyday life. Setting up automatic withdrawals ensures giving isn’t an afterthought, but part of your monthly budget. Sponsoring a child is a way I’ve chosen to give consistently. The seemingly mundane automatic withdrawal can be formative. You can give of your time consistently by volunteering. You could also consider opening your home and making a habit of inviting someone new to lunch every week after church.
2. Give spontaneously. Sometimes God puts needs in your path and invites you to respond spontaneously, out of your trust in Him. Maybe it’s someone reaching out for a place to stay or a street-involved person asking for a meal. Perhaps it’s a text from a friend in crisis or someone looking lost in your city. The conscious decision to give spontaneously can give profound insight into the way God is always working in and through His people.
3. Give sacrificially. Sometimes we need to start by making sacrifices in order to simplify our lives, to free us up to practise generosity in the most transformative ways. Giving until you feel it is when the rubber really hits the road. It is a reminder that all we have is all God’s. It is an invitation to trust Him more as Provider. Try packing lunch instead of eating out, saying “no” to something good to save a little and do something better with those resources. Or try taking time off work to be generous with your time.
Like with every spiritual discipline, when we start to see giving as something we are invited into, rather than something we have to do, it becomes transformative and life-giving.
Do you practise generosity as part of your spiritual disciplines? How can you start or continue in the weeks and months ahead?