If you can’t be generous when you have nothing, you’ll not be generous when you have everything.
– Dr. Femida Handy, University of Pennsylvania
This is a hard truth to embrace, especially in a culture that tells us constantly that we must prioritize getting ahead of everyone else. However, those who do get ahead often feel unsatisfied with what they have attained, and high net worth individuals say they need even more wealth to be “perfectly happy.”
Adam Grant, a business professor at Wharton and New York Times-bestselling author, writes in Give and Take that the missing piece to true success is generosity — as he defines it, helping others. Those who elbow their way to the top often fall flat. Instead, Grant argues, the people who offer a helping hand to their peers, without expecting anything in return, become successful.
Measuring success by financial wealth is as useless as building a one-legged chair. Measuring generosity by monetary giving is the same fallacy. With God as our sustainer, every aspect of our lives — not just money — can be used to serve others, and even the least of us are qualified to practice generosity.
Giving Is Not Monetary
Contemplating whether you “have enough” to help others misses a beautiful opportunity to love as God demonstrated. Perhaps one of Jesus’s most famous statements is that God “gave His one and only Son” for us! (John 3:16) God blesses us so that we will be able to bless others (Genesis 12:2). There are countless ways to bless others, as Jesus describes:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. – Matthew 25:35-36, NIV
Notice Jesus makes no mention of wealth in the verses above. God desires us to bless others out of what we can give. Sometimes that includes possessions others could use, but it also includes gifts of time, attention, and care. There is no threshold or line of satisfaction that we must first meet before generosity can be activated. The only thing the Bible requires is that we give cheerfully and intentionally:
You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully. — 2 Corinthians 9:7, NLT
There is an abundance of ways to show God’s love and be generous beyond money. God encourages those who have financial riches not to trust in their wealth, but to “do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:18). This is a call to be stewards with our whole lives.
The Lord Sustains
We are able to give freely and without worry because the Lord sustains us. When the Israelites left Egypt, God provided them bread from heaven each morning. Moses told the people to gather only enough bread for the day. They were not to store it up, for the Lord would replenish their needs every day.
Each morning everyone gathered as much as they needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away. — Exodus 16:21, NIV
Some of the Israelites began to ignore Moses and tried to keep the bread until the next day, but the bread became full of maggots and smelled horribly. Moses was angry, as the Lord had promised to fulfill their daily need without storing up for themselves. They would be blessed with daily bread from God for 40 years until they reached the promised land.
God owns everything at the end of the day. God’s ownership frees us to pursue Him. This does not mean those with great wealth and many possessions should feel shame; it is simply a call to live with our hands open and our eyes on the Kingdom. Storing up our treasures in heaven means living in a cycle of receiving His grace and giving grace to others, investing in eternity and not earthly possessions.
And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need, and plenty left over to share with others. — 2 Corinthians 9:8, NLT
We have all been entrusted with blessings to give. We can begin our journey of cheerful generosity today, without waiting on earthly wealth!
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