At The Signatry, we often speak about what generosity looks like and how to maximize the value of gifts to others. These can be complex discussions about strategy, growth rates, timelines, and countless other considerations. Through all these details, it can be helpful to go “back to basics” and remember why we are called to generosity at all.
Why do we give?
Jesus makes the reason for this call very clear:
Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:8 NIV
Jesus shares this directive with his disciples as he sends them out to heal, purify, and share the gospel with their fellow Israelites. The disciples carry no material wealth on their journey—in fact, Jesus instructs them not to—but they do have the good news of God’s Kingdom and the power to free people from physical and spiritual pain. They received both of these as free gifts, and Jesus reminds them how God’s generosity sets a precedent for their own interactions with others.
Jesus’s call to generosity involved attending to people’s physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. All these actions flow from the central message of the Kingdom. God’s care for his children’s welfare is clear throughout the Bible, and the simple framework to give because we have freely received extends to material generosity, too.
Old Testament Generosity
If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. … You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. Leviticus 25:35, 37-38 NIV
When God lays out laws for Israel to follow, He mandates generosity toward the poor, wherever the people see a need. God reminds His people of His own compassion toward them when he freed them from slavery and led them to a land He set aside for them. After experiencing all this, the Israelites should be eager to support their brothers and sisters through hard times.
New Testament Generosity
Of course, Jesus’s death and resurrection is the ultimate saving work, and in the New Testament God urges His people toward generosity as a response to this sacrificial act.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18 NIV
John emphasizes to the Church that Jesus’s sacrifice of his own body for our sake is our example to sacrifice our comforts to help others. To do anything other than express God’s generosity when we see others in need is to turn our backs on God’s love. Freely we received Jesus’s redemption, and so freely we give.
What happens when we give?
The Bible also describes God’s promise to return generosity for generosity. The Psalms and Proverbs are full of reminders that God will bless those who bless others:
One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24-25 NIV
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice. Psalm 112:5 NIV
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done. Proverbs 19:17 NIV
When Paul writes to the church in Corinth, he praises them for being well-known as generous givers and reminds them that God will bless their generosity. He also invites them to go a step further—to consider what they might do with those extra blessings.
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. … You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on very occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8, 11 NIV
The blessings the Corinthians receive for their gifts will allow them to give even more to people in need, allowing the cycle of abundance to continue. God promises to bless us for our generosity, yes, and those blessings give us renewed motivation and resources to give even more. Our generosity flows entirely from the grace we have received from God, and when God rewards that generosity, we have even more to be thankful for and even more abundance to share with others.