Have you ever taken a spiritual gifts inventory and been relieved that generosity is not your primary spiritual gift? I know how you feel.
But I greatly admire people who are generous. I want to be one when I grow up.
I always imagine that the best version of my future self will be generous. I definitely plan on becoming a generous person at a future time when I have so many more resources to spare. Future me is awesome.
Maybe you have a similar vision for your life. No one wants to be known as stingy or tightfisted. We all want to be generous. Or at least we want to want to be generous.
But the thing about it is that you will never become the generous person you hope to be unless you begin to take intentional steps in the direction of generosity.
If you are looking to begin cultivating a generous lifestyle, here are a few tips to help you become a generous person.
1. Give regularly.
This may sound overly simple, but a key factor in becoming a generous person is just giving regularly. Give to your church on a regular basis, not only when you feel like it. Give regularly to other organizations that are doing good things as well. Set up your monthly budget with giving as a top priority–not as an afterthought or from whatever is left.
This can feel like a grind. It can even feel legalistic. But it’s not.
You might think, “I only want to give out of the sincerity of my heart. I want generosity to well up within me so that it overflows and I can give out of that generous feeling.”
But it doesn’t really work that way. Jesus once said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Jesus didn’t say, “Put your treasure wherever your heart feels most invested.” He said, “Wherever you put your treasure is where your heart will eventually be.”
Regularly put your treasure where you want your heart to be. That’s what generous people do.
2. Give generously.
Giving regularly, even if it’s a very small amount, is a huge first step in becoming a generous person. Learning to increase the amount you give is the next big step.
Generous people give generously. A large proportion of what they earn is given away. They choose to live on less than what they make so that they can make a greater impact on other people’s lives through their giving.
How much should you give? The answer isn’t the same for everybody. But a helpful guiding question is this: Is my giving ambitious enough?
Does the amount you give ever cause you to doubt whether you should be giving that much? If not, maybe you should give more. Our giving should challenge us, and even make us feel a bit uncomfortable.
Generous people learn to be ambitious givers.
3. Give even when it hurts.
This is where the money is (pun intended).
Some months may be harder to give than others. You may have some unexpected expenses that came up. Maybe your car needed repairs. Maybe you had to buy a new refrigerator. Maybe your child just started playing travel ball. We all experience seasons where finances are a little tighter than we would like them to be.
If you want to become a generous person, give in these seasons anyway.
This is where your faith will grow the most. When you have to truly trust that God will provide, and you choose to give in that trust, your generosity begins to grow by leaps and bounds.
This is where generosity becomes a lifestyle. Generous people don’t only give when they experience abundance. They give in the midst of their scarcity too.
4. Give where there is wisdom and accountability.
Generosity is an act of faith, but it should not be an act of blind naïveté. When we give to organizations, whether it’s our church or a charitable cause, we should make sure that the organization has proper systems of accountability and wisdom in place.
Are there structures of accountability that keep the money safe? Is the organization transparent with its finances? Does the organization use money wisely and in accordance with the purpose for which it was given?
These are all legitimate questions that we should ask. Not because we are seeking to cast judgment, but because we only have a certain number of resources that God has given us. So we want our giving to really count.
Generous people are people of integrity, and they care about partnering with people of integrity.
5. Give strategically.
This is tied very closely with the previous point. We want our giving to be strategic. We want to make sure that the finances that we give are making some kind of an impact.
So we want to funnel our generosity into organizations that do the most with the money that they have. We want our money to be spent in a way that makes the biggest impact.
When you see an opportunity to give to a special initiative, be sure you know the plan for how those funds will be spent before you commit to giving. It would be a shame to give, only to find out that you could have given somewhere else with greater strategic impact for good.
Generous people give freely. But that doesn’t mean that they give without thinking first.
6. Give with no strings attached.
While we want our generosity to be used wisely and strategically, at the same time, we need to also be disciplined to give with no strings attached.
If you give with strings attached, you aren’t really giving. You are purchasing.
As much as we want to do our research before giving to any particular organization, once we give, the money is no longer ours. We have no control over it. It has been given away as a gift.
This means that we ought not to use our money, our resources, or how much we have donated in the past as a means by which we can vie for power in an organization. Anyone who does so is not a generous person. They’re a manipulative person.
A generous person is never going to remind you of how “generous” they have been in the past.
7. Give missionally.
At the end of the day, generosity isn’t simply a virtue that we are seeking to obtain so that we can look more spiritual or even more “Christian.” We want to become generous people because we have been given a mission by Jesus.
If you are a follower of Jesus, then your life’s mission should be for your words and actions to show that Jesus truly does hold the keys to life abundant. So we should give to mission above all else.
This is why I believe that the lion’s share of our giving should be to our local church. If you attend a church that serves the mission of Jesus, then you should be giving generously to the cause of that church.
Your church leaders, who labor tirelessly to equip the church for mission, should have enough resources to pay the staff livable wages, to cultivate a meeting space that invites in the lost, and to be a generous organization to the community. And it is the responsibility of the members of the church to make it so.
And if you don’t believe that your church leaders are obsessed with the idea of reaching the lost, then don’t give to it. Don’t attend there either. Attend a church that is all about the mission, and then give generously of your time, efforts, talents, and money.
It’s only when we give missionally that we see the purpose of our generosity. It is to image the generosity of the God who offers us everything we could ever need or want in Jesus.