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Exploring Biblical Generosity


Once we understand the spirit behind tithing, generosity, and the Spirit behind generosity, Jesus Christ, we can further comprehend how to be generous.

For the sake of this conversation, we will consider the definition of generosity “a willingness to give more of something than is necessary or expected”.

When we consider what can be given, it can be broken down into two main categories: possessions or time. Both can be difficult to let go of, and sometimes it isn’t until you do that you feel the true joy of giving unto the Lord.

In the end, our greatest purpose on earth and reason for existence can be traced back to one reason: to glorify God Almighty. The goal with generosity should not be a prideful pursuit of self-glorification, but a response to the grace and sanctification we continuously receive from Christ!

A major goal in our life should be what is seen in Psalm 119:36: “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!“ Our greatest desire should be for God to mold our heart to be more like His so that we no longer desire selfish gain but instead see the world as if through His eyes, hear the world as if through His ears, and reach the world as if through His hands.

Keeping this goal in mind, let’s look into what Scripture reveals to us about generosity. Typically, we would think of this in terms of money, so we can start there, but there are other ways to be generous with the physical blessings God has given us in a way that glorifies Him, and other examples of generosity that we should not, and cannot ignore.


Let’s look at what the Bible says about our finances, and what is expected of us with them.

You can’t look at this very long without tackling a topic that many might give a great sigh at hearing mentioned: tithes. I want us to take a moment to look at why people might sigh at the mention of such a great opportunity to give to God, then look at what Scripture says about it.

Tithing is a topic (at least in many churches I’ve been to) that seems to always bring with, at best, a lack of enthusiasm and at worst, outright contention. I believe this probably can be attributed to at least 2 things.

First, I believe tithing has often been presented poorly by both well-meaning and selfish individuals and organizations (often churches). I’ve seen this done very well and very poorly, with the worst of it being in situations where you feel pressured to give and embarrassed if you don’t. Nobody likes that feeling! Over time, situations like these can give tithing a bad feeling that it was never meant to have.

Second, I believe ill-feelings toward tithing are based on a lack of spiritual maturity. Whether you worry about putting food on the table (Matthew 6:25-34) or about saving up for something you do not need (Luke 12:13-21), a lack of willingness to give like the woman in Mark 12:42 who gave everything she had shows that there is still room for growth in the Lord. This is a strong point, and be assured that I have these struggles as well, which leads me to writing these things.

Tithing is established in Scripture not as an explicitly defined amount for every situation (though there were many specifics related to the sacrifices in the Old Testament), but rather as an overflow of faith in God. We see this as early as Genesis 14 when Abram gave Melchizedek one tenth of everything He had earned in his rescue of Lot. We also see this in other places in Scripture and I encourage you to dive deeper into the topic to discover for yourself where the “10% Rule” comes from. For this conversation, however, I want us to focus more on the heart, understanding, and wisdom behind tithing, rather than focus on specific amounts. To do this, we must first understand the ownership of what we have.


Psalm 24:1 tells us that “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it…” leaving no questions as to who owns everything. Being the creator of all the earth (Gen. 1:1, Is. 45:12, Jn 1:3, Col. 1:16), God alone has the right to claim ownership. Everything we have, even the breath in our lungs and life in our body (Genesis 2:7), are ours solely because of the gracious gift of God. We are merely stewards of everything that we possess.

Stewardship and Riches

The Bible gives us insight into how we should steward our possessions, and how we should view having an abundance of them.

In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), Jesus shows us that God has given us each abilities and possessions to use and grow. He shows us that those who are trusted with little can be trusted with more, but those who cannot even be trusted with a little, cannot be trusted with more. Here we see one of the expectations of stewardship: to use and grow what He has given us.

We cannot, however, just grow selfishly. This is further clarified in Luke 12:16-21 in the parable of the rich fool. Jesus tells us a parable of a man who takes what was generously given to him by God and stores it up selfishly for himself. His life was unexpectedly over before he could consume his wealth. In verse 21, Jesus ends the parable with a stern warning: ”This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” The end of that statement is one with great depth, promise, and warning. God has dealt richly with us with His grace and mercy, and we are to reciprocate that in the minute ways we can.

When we realize that God is the owner, that we are merely stewards, and that we are to be rich toward God, longing for our hearts to be aligned to His will, generosity begins to become easier and make a lot more sense. Being rich toward God can be done in small, practical ways that He considers as mighty things (Matthew 25).

Going further into the topic of stewardship, or rather all the way back to the beginning, we can see that God created mankind with a specific goal to be stewards of His creation (Gen. 1:26). The concept of stewardship is literally (almost) as “old as time” and was created by God Himself. But there is one major source of confusion with generosity and stewardship that could use some clarification: can you glorify God and be wealthy?

People often point to Matthew 19:21&24 on this topic, stating that Jesus said to give everything away, and that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God! These are extreme steps, and the latter of the two leads the reader to realize that a camel cannot possibly fit through the eye of a needle, so it is impossible for someone to be rich and enter the kingdom of God. But these points ignore 2 major things: context and the whole of Scripture. (They do, however, expose a popular and dangerous disposition of many: to take individual verses to make a point. We must be careful about how we interpret every verse using its context and what the rest of Scripture says about the topic, but that is a long topic for another time that every believer should research.)

Looking to Scripture, we see many great men of faith who also have great riches bestowed on them such as Abraham (the father of faith), David (the man after God’s own heart), Solomon (the wise king). Without spending too much time on the topic, I wanted to take a brief moment to clarify that riches and faith (or a lack thereof) have no direct correlation or causation drawn between them in Scripture. So yes, you can glorify God and be wealthy. This then leads us to a fantastic question: how?

We glorify God by having a readiness, willingness, and understanding of when and how to use His gifts for His glory. All 3 of these things will become more and more natural as we continue through our sanctification process, pursuing the Lord through His Word.

In Luke 12, Jesus was not expecting that rich young ruler to actually give up everything he had, but rather He was pointing out a lack of willingness in the young man to follow Him regardless of the cost. He was illuminating the desires of the heart: riches, and that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21, Luke 12:34). Jesus explains this concept deeper in Matthew 16:24-26, telling us to “take up [our] cross and follow Me.”

The willingness Christ showed to follow the Father’s will in Luke 22:42 should be our prayer, as it was His, in everything. If Christ was willing to accomplish God’s will in the manner which He did, how wrong are we to be selfish with what God has given us?

The Ultimate Generosity of Christ

Jesus was in the beginning with God, and was (is) God Himself (John 1:1), yet He gave up equality with God, and took the form of a servant, being obedient to the point of death on a cross so that we might be saved. That is generosity! That is love! That is alignment with the will of God!

Even further than the physical death on the cross, which was a horrific and torturous death reserved for the worst of criminals, we see Jesus, who knew no sin, become sin so that we might be saved. The One who was eternally too holy to be in the presence of Sin, gave up everything He had, including His separation from Sin.

This moment is the greatest example of generosity, and will eternally be that. Jesus, who had eternally been God, was separated from God because of our sin (Matthew 27:46), the sin of the whole world. After this, the Eternal One, the Giver of Life, Jesus Christ the Son of God died a physical death, separated from His Father. All of creation felt this pain and immediate physical and spiritual wonders erupted.

The earth shook, rocks were split, and tombs were opened. The dead were raised to life! But that is not the most miraculous sign that day. The temple curtain was torn in two, symbolizing that a day was coming soon when we would no longer have an earthly priest, but rather the one true High Priest sitting at the right hand of God, allowing us direct communion and conversation with God! The glorious story continued to unfold on the third day when Jesus rose with death and sin in defeat, glorified and pure! We see that because of the depth of his faith in God, and submission to His will, Jesus was given “the name above every name” and that “at His name, every knee shall bow” (Phil. 2:6-11)!

Circling Back

Everything leads back to Christ, and the topic of generosity is no different. The entire Old Testament is leading us into the knowledge and understanding of our need for a Savior, and the entire New Testament is telling us of the wondrous works of that Savior.

So, now when we circle back around to an early statement we made that a lack of generosity (in relation to tithing but also beyond) was a clear sign of a lack of faith and sanctification, we can see the truth of the matter put in an eternal perspective.

We can see that tithing is just the beginning of generosity. A mere threshold into the wondrous world of serving the Lord with what He has given us. A fraction of what our generosity is meant to be.

What does true and full generosity look like? It looks like clothing, feeding, and tending to the poor, the sick, and the hungry (Matthew 25:31-46). Giving and expecting nothing in return (Luke 14:12-14). Loving our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). What do all of these things have in common? Pursuing God above all else, loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, using what He has given us as a tool for His glory in accordance with His will.

If you are able to read this, then you have been richly blessed by God and are able to generously give what He has given you.

I cannot find a better passage to summarize this topic than 1 Timothy 6:17-19, so I leave you with it, asking that you consider this passage and the ultimate generosity of Christ in everything you do:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Be rich toward God and take hold of the life that is truly life.