Generosity…the word makes my brain snap to thoughts of money, or at least to the thoughts of money I wish I had. I have this unfortunate memory of asking an artistic friend to make personalized book marks for a handful of women who were helping me with a presentation.
My friend is an incredible artist and created the most beautiful bookmarks. You could see the thought, detail and love in each unique piece. I was overcome by the beauty of the pieces and was compelled to compensate her, but as I looked at their value I felt I didn’t have enough. She wasn’t expecting anything but I didn’t want to insult her time and talent with the little I could give…so I didn’t. That nagging lack of generosity stayed with me for over a decade.
Recently I took it upon myself to do a fundraiser for my son and daughter-in-love’s adoption effort. I called it 10 Fingers * 10 Toes * 10 Day * $10 Fundraiser. Because I knew what it was like to have my generosity shut down by thoughts of “not having enough”, I purposely set the amount low so others wouldn’t feel the same struggle. It ended up being a very awkward time because it’s hard for me to ask for help. In all honesty, it brings feelings of inadequacies when I reach out. I never realized though, that at a deeper level I was projecting these personal shortcomings on to others. Early this year I learned that my inability to receive well was actually tainting my own acts of generosity. This convicting jolt happened when I ran across a Brené Brown quote in The Gifts of Imperfection. “Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgement to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgement to giving help.”
I never realized that judgement loomed over parts of my generosity, but it did. Not having enough to give was a judgement on myself, but I also couldn’t deny the judgment that surfaced when I gave plenty. It creeped in as pity toward the causes that I supported. Like a low-lying fog this pity corrupted my view of the people I was helping, because my heart would break and I’d think, “Oh those poor people.” Brené digs deeper with a revelation that continues to indicts me; she says, “At the time, I would have vehemently denied attaching judgement to my generous giving. But now, I understand how I derived self-worth from never needing help and always offering it.” My difficulty in receiving help stemmed from my self-worth’s unsinkable efforts to keep itself afloat with self-sufficiency, but self-sufficiency has absolutely no part in Christian generosity.
While I was struggling with the adoption fundraiser, God’s perfect timing landed me smack dab in the middle of His truth about giving. This summer I did a bible study by Kelly Minter titled; All Things New. It was a study on 2 Corinthians that showcased the real aspects of generosity in 11 truths:
1) God’s definition of generous giving isn’t dependent on how much or how little wealth a person has.
2) The experience of giving is a privilege that’s accompanied by joy even in difficult circumstances.
3) Our willingness to give must be matched with actual follow through.
4) God cares more about our desire to give than the amount we’re able to give.
5) The discipline of giving is for the mutual benefit of the giver and the receiver.
6) Giving must be done in the right spirit but also in the right way.
7) A lifestyle of generosity is not an individual endeavor but a team effort.
8) A lifestyle of generous giving requires planning.
9) The amount you reap is proportionate to the amount you sow.
10) God loves a cheerful giver.
11) God is the ultimate source of our giving.
Piling onto these truths, God also blessed me with an up-close and personal experience of someone who had the spiritual gift of generosity. Any time we’re talking spiritual gifts, we are talking about someone’s super-power from God. And like any other super-power, it is meant to help others. Part of me believes that the reason God loves a cheerful giver is because there is no judgement attached to it. I watched a donor and his family match my initial fundraising challenge, and then work to double it. I had never seen anything like it before. It was as if someone had turned a fire hose of abundance on me – I was truly blown away! The most beautiful part of their extravagance was their excitement and joy for the impact they would have on our family, all of which was judgement free.
That clumsy posture of receiving grew me in ways I never would have imagined. I was stunned by the lavish amounts that came through from a simple $10 fundraising request. In only 10 days we raised nearly $3000 through only 29 donors. There was a sacrificial $10 gift that brought tears to my eyes and while we received gifts, both large and small, each one touched me deeply… really deeply. Cheerful givers rained blessings of affirmation upon us and reinforced God’s calling to adopt one of His precious children.
Giving and generosity aren’t restricted to dollars. Giving involves not only our treasure, but our time and talent as well. As I mentioned at the beginning, the story of my friend who used her time and talent to create handmade book marks haunted me for years; until I finally decided to get over my embarrassment of 1) not having enough money and 2) the many years that had passed. It wasn’t guilt, but conviction that caused me to write her a letter. I shared my feelings, affirmed her artistry and slipped a payment inside for her wonderful work. It was an amount that I couldn’t afford all those years ago, but as I learned later, it wasn’t the money, but the words in my letter that came at just the right time for her. God’s grace flowed 10 years after the fact; healing me and affirming her.
Generosity and giving affirms others, and says, “I see you!” It is God’s outstretched hand, reaching through your heart, to touch someone else. Proverbs 11:25 says, “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Giving refreshes us as the givers and affirms the receiver of God’s love. When I allow God to turn my pity into compassion it arrests my judgment and I become a true conduit of God’s love. Receiving well is how that is done. Moreover, when I allow myself to receive freely, I provide others with the opportunity to touch me with God’s affirmation and love.
My lesson in generosity didn’t stop with the discovery that being a good receiver helps me to be a better giver. While listening to an audio book I heard the author refer to goodness in the Fruit of the Spirit as generosity. This intrigued me so I checked out several translations to see that, indeed, many of them used generosity instead of goodness. At first, I wondered about that, but then realized that the true essence behind goodness is a generous spirit, a generosity that was demonstrated by our sacrificial, good, and holy God. We are made in His image and when we are generous, we are like Him.
The words “give”and “gave” are mentioned over 2,000 times in the NIV translation of the Bible. The word “receive” is only used 255 times. That is a staggering disparity supported by the well-known Scripture, “It is better to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:25) Giving with a right heart rather than pride or obligation is what develops our spiritual maturity and produces fruit.
Since the fruit of the Spirit gauge our maturity in Christ we may automatically equate generous actions with someone who is spiritually mature. However, when generosity is cloaked in self-sufficiency, God is not a part of that. Obligation is another gesture that doesn’t bear God’s signature. Spiritually mature generosity is first of all, dependent on God’s provision and then offered in partnership with God to glorify Him.
Dallas Willard says, “You’re a soul made by God, made for God, and made to need God, which means you were not made to be self-sufficient.” This reminds me that the more spiritually mature I become, the more dependent on God I will become. Spiritually mature generosity is an understanding that all we have; time, talent, and treasure, comes from God, is to be used for His purposes and best of all, brings us joy!
Replacing judgment and self-sufficiency with compassion and dependence has already produced more joy for me than I could imagine. What better picture of this do we have than Jesus. The Gospels recount all that He gave through miracles and hope. He was generous to the point of fatigue and even death! But we also see that He was an itinerant Rabbi whose ministry was subject to other’s generous hospitality. He was an excellent receiver! No judgments or stigmas on his part as He gracefully and graciously accepted every invitation. He maintained a regal posture of giving as well as receiving with great compassion, and the force behind His biggest act of generosity was joy. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
What joy awaits you? I know we all can’t give in the same ways that Jesus did, but I do know that God works through us to achieve His purposes. While I’ve learned that compassion and dependent giving is at the heart of generosity, I would say that the most important take away is that God loves a cheerful giver. So, let joy be the first thing you think of next time an opportunity comes your way to give, and remind yourself of the joy that you will give others when you become the humble receiver. Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Cor. 9:6-7)
How would you characterize your generosity? Where do you find the most joy in giving; time, talent or treasure? What kind of receiver are you? Become aware of the nuances of judgement, self-sufficiency as part of your generosity.
What people come to mind as you read this poem. How are their lives full or empty as a result of their generosity or their scarcity?
God’s love hath in us wealth unheaped
Only by giving it is reaped;
The body withers, and the mind
Is pent up by a selfish rind.
Give strength, give thought, give deeds, give pelf
Give love, give tears, and give thyself.
Give, give, be always giving,
Who gives not is not living;
The more we give
The more we live.
1) Pray and see what steps God would have you take. Generosity is a personal and intimate expression of your relationship with God.
2) For some of you, allowing someone to give to you will help you to learn to receive without judgment or stigma. The practice of humbly receiving will help you to give with compassion and with joy. Find ways to receive help.
As a certified Christian Life Coach, I can help you move from where you are to where God wants you to be. If you are interested in learning about how the Fruit of the Spirit gauge your spiritual maturity then let’s chat. I’d love to be your champion in what God is calling you to do!
#Karynisms #CoachKaryn #EQandJesus #generosity #spiritualmaturity #giving #emotionalintelligence #EI #EQ