Out of curiosity I looked up the Wikipedia entry on generosity and found this: "The modern English word "generosity" derives from the Latin word generōsus, which means "of noble birth". In other words, some people used to think that only people of noble birth would be generous. Or perhaps it was expected of nobility to be generous to the poor. Generosity is a noble trait, but it is probably as common, if not more common among ordinary people as among the "nobility". The people from Macedonia were generous and noble.
"My friends, we want you to know that the churches in Macedonia have shown others God's gift of undeserved grace. Although they were going through hard times and were very poor, they were glad to give generously. They gave as much as they could afford and even more, simply because they wanted to. They even asked and begged us to let them have the joy of giving their money for God's people. And they did more than we had hoped. They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us, just as God wanted them to do." 2 Cor 8:1-5
Here are some lessons about generosity from the Macedonians (in no particular order):
- generosity doesn't depend on your financial circumstances. These people were going through hard times and were very poor, yet they gave generously. This truth implies a 2nd:
- you don't have to wait til you are financially stable before giving. You can begin giving when you don't have much at all.
- generosity is usually limited by what a person can afford. The Macedonians gave as much as they could afford, though some of them gave more than they could afford, i.e., they sacrificed something to give.
- In NO CASE do we ever hear of someone borrowing money to give. Giving was based on their income and they did what they could and a bit above that, but no more than that.
- Generous giving comes from the heart: "simply because they wanted to". These people wanted to give and it seems that initially they were refused, so they "even asked and begged" to give. Which leads to another principle:
- Generosity, giving is a privilege not a duty. Imagine someone grabbing Paul's arm firmly and pleading "Please Paul, you have let me contribute!" When was the last time you begged someone for the privilege of giving? It reminds me of Chinese fighting to pay a restaurant bill.
- Generous giving for the right reason brings joy and happiness: "they begged us to let them have the joy of giving", "they were glad to give generously". Does writing a check to WorldVision, Samaritan's Purse, or your favorite charity make you happy? Have you ever secretly done something special for another person and then sat back and watched with delight as they enjoyed your generosity?
- Giving done right shows off God's amazing grace: "the churches in Macedonia have shown others God's gift of undeserved grace". I haven't often thought about the testimonial value of giving. Giving done right points a spotlight on God's amazing, undeserved, generous grace. Giving generously, sacrificially is a reflection of the giving of the Father and the giving of Jesus to us. So what is giving done right?
- The first step in becoming a generous giver is to give yourself to God. "They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us". Giving oneself to God as a living sacrifice is the first step. Once God owns you and your possessions, than giving is simply a matter of obeying the promptings and directions of the Holy Spirit.
Those are some preliminary thoughts on generous giving. Hope it is helpful.