More than ever, books, blogs and articles are being written shedding light on the disparity between the wealth of Americans and the West versus the majority of the world. Statistics like, “If you have 2 or more of something…then you are __ % richer than everyone else” abound. It’s easy to feel guilty about the state of the world or on the flip side hardened against it. So what does everyone do when the offering basket is passed to you in a 1000 seat sanctuary with a professional praise band and state of the art sound system playing softly while the preacher shares his vision on reaching the world? Or you watch a teary, fly ridden, African boy with a distended stomach from malnourishment on your Samsung 52” flat screen tv? Or you hear about another earthquake or tsunami hitting a part of the world you’ve never thought about before on your new Samsung Edge smartphone? What does everyone do? They give a little. Sometimes out of compassion, but if we’re honest, with a lot of guilt mixed in and maybe even some superiority, “those poor people." But the reality is, the world doesn’t need a bunch of Jesus-followers giving out of guilt or obligation or worse, condescending. The world needs hope filled, Spirit-guided, conscientious, intelligent and most of all generous Jesus-followers. Not the kind of people that throws money at world problems without thinking, or uses money to ease their own consciouses. But rather people that gets their hands dirty, giving their love away freely. So how do you become more generous? What’s more, how do you become more generous and wise in that generosity. Here are 10 things that I have found reading books, blogs and articles...
1. Be okay with what you have.
Finances are a blessing. God in the Old Testament blessed people with riches. That’s not a sin. However, just like with anything, if your blessing becomes more valuable to you than God, it’s idolatry. (Proverbs 10:22; Matthew 19:16-22)
2. Look at money in terms of stewardship.
Stewardship is an old word for taking care of someone else stuff. God entrusts you with His finances. Everything you own is His. What do you do with it? Use it for yourself only? Or do you further God’s will on Earth with it? (Matthew 25:14-30)
3. Do a budget.
I know... this is weird. But you need to take responsibility for your money. Knowing where your money is going will give you a window into what you value and whether that needs to change. Spending 90% of your money to go out to eat is a problem. You might not even be aware that you have a problem here until you do a budget. There’s tons of resources online to help you do this. Always allocate a percentage for giving and stick to it. (www.daveramsey.com/fpu) (Luke 14:28)
4. Engage with the world.
Read the news, learn about other countries, cultures, peoples, etc. It’s very hard to have a heart for the world if you know nothing about the world. This is where ignorance comes from. I find it sad that many people that have strong opinions about how the U.S. should deal with other countries and people groups know nothing about those very people. Don’t be like them. Know the world and love the world. (Matthew 28:18-20)
5. Don’t give off the cuff.
This often stems from guilt and a great sales pitch. Yes, we want to be generous, but I’m sorry to say that in this day and age, there are many charities, ministries and churches that are irresponsible with the finances people give. They have a great Youtube video that went viral but that’s about it. This goes along with stewardship. Be responsible with the finances God has given you. Give where the money is used effectively and for the best possible outcome. (1 Peter 4:7)
6. Research where you’re giving.
Some charities give without any deep consideration to what it will do to the people. Consider Toms, the famous (stinky) fabric shoe maker that gives a pair of shoes away to kids in Africa for every pair we westerners buy. Sounds good right? Wrong. What happens to shoe makers in certain areas of Africa where Toms shoes are air dropped? Yeah, you heard that right… they drop a big crate of Toms shoes in various areas. Weird. I know. So what happens to the shoe makers? They go bankrupt, shut down. etc. Free always wins. There are also stories of used American clothes, well builders and more. (Book: Toxic Charity) (Ephesians 5:15-17)
7. Know yourself.
If you’re forgetful, work around it. Set up automatic online giving so you can’t forget… it’ll do it for you. I know it’s not as glamorous as giving money in an offering plate and letting everyone see you do it. But, consistency is better.
8. Give whatever you can now.
It’s easy to think that you don’t make enough money to warrant giving. Nope, that’s wrong… If you’re a college student, it’s not really all that much about how much you give at this point. It’s about your heart. You want to develop a culture of generosity in that heart of you because if you don’t… statistics say, you most likely won’t give when you actually have money. Now, I’m not saying to just toss a dollar every Sunday… remember point numbers 3 and 5. Give what you’ve stated in your budget. (James 1:22)
9. Generosity doesn’t always have to be money.
I know some of you reading this don’t have jobs (Middle and High School) or very little allowance (meaning, you ask for money to do something and that’s all you get). But that doesn’t mean you can’t be generous either. Donate time, blood, services, food, etc… Churches always need help and Red Cross always needs blood? Anyway, you get the idea. When you go out to eat, look around and see if someone in your group doesn’t have any money for food. Share. We eat too much anyway.
10. Be grateful.
Generous people aren’t entitled people. They are grateful people. I remember when I was growing up I had never had American treats like Little Debbie Snack Cakes. I remember going to a friend’s house and for snack his mom had given us a package each. He pitched a fit. He wanted something else I had never heard of but must of been really good because the snack cake in my hand looked amazing. I couldn’t understand why he was freaking out. Anyway, I ate mine and loved it. I was grateful. My friend wasn’t. Grateful people have an open hand when they get things. They know that it’s a blessing and because of that, they are more willing to share their blessings with others. Think about a person who things he deserves every blessing. He’s not likely to give you some of the blessing that he deserved, or anyone else for that matter. Sounds lonely.
Let’s be more generous people. Jesus was and I love that guy.
For more information read Toxic Charity: Robert Lupton and Overrated: Eugene Cho.