Different Forms of Generosity
As a career fundraiser and someone who grew up watching her dad write checks to charities on the dining room table, I only learned about financial generosity. It wasn’t until I married my husband, Steve, I realized there are other types of generosity and different ways to be generous.
When Steve and I first got married, money was a tough subject to bring up. We had very different upbringings and ideas about philanthropy. Our first time working on a budget didn’t go well.
Early in our marriage, I was adamant about tithing to our local church (as I was trained to be a good Baptist) and Steve was not overly enthused. After intense conversations, we eventually settled on tithing only our net income.
From there, our conversations about money and generosity didn’t get any easier. I had a love for giving to charities and would give spontaneously. Again, Steve was not thrilled by my random giving habits. There would be times where I would donate to a charity and not tell him about it until I felt convicted by the Holy Spirit. I confess it happened more times than I’d care to admit.
Finally, I exploded and told Steve God wants us to be generous to others. I still remember his response, “Generosity comes in many different forms.”
“What do you mean? There is only one type of generosity,” I pridefully stated. Like many of our conversations, I would then proceed to quote John Piper, we should “out give those who lived under the law because we have a better covenant and a better promise. Everything is greater with Christ. Why wouldn’t giving be greater?” I thought this would end the argument. Well, it didn’t.
Steve responded, “You can be generous with your time, service, and money.” He continued, “I know you are generous with our money, but you don’t volunteer your time, spend time discipling others, or help people outside of giving.” I sulked away and quickly ended the conversation.
You can be generous with your time, service, and money.
I replayed the conversation over and over in my mind as God began a work in my heart. Steve was right. It was easy for me to give money to further the gospel and kingdom impact, but I wasn’t the first to volunteer at the church or spend time discipling others.
One day, I remember doing a devotional and praying because I was frustrated with the whole thing. As a professional fundraiser, I felt everyone should be financially generous and thought to myself, “If everyone was generous, no one would be dying, hungry, or sick.” God spoke to me in my pride and reminded me He is more concerned with the generosity of His people than I will ever be.
At that moment, I was reminded I am not the one who produces the increase. “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:7) I am simply the harvester of what God supplies. He ultimately works in His peoples’ heart to be generous toward others. Not me. I am just a tool He uses for His glory.
During that season, Steve’s words also continued to roll around in my mind. The moment they hit me like a freight train, though, was when we offered for a family to live with us for five months.
Those five months were difficult as I had to learn what true generosity meant. I had to be generous in all areas that did not involve money. Generous in my time. Generous in my space. Generous in watching children who weren’t mine. God really used that time to expand my understanding about generosity.
Fast forward to the present and the world is in crisis because of the COVID-19 outbreak. I had already made up my mind we were not able to give beyond our tithe, as we had just started tithing on our gross income instead of net. When I told Steve my plans for the upcoming month, he shocked me by saying we should give extra to the church during this time.
I was absolutely floored. This was coming from my husband who six years ago grumbled at tithing. God worked in Him in a way that my nagging could not to produce real fruit. It reminded me of 2 Corinthians 9:11:
“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”
God molded Steve to be a cheerful giver as he drew closer to the Lord over our many years of marriage. That day, God again reminded me that He is more concerned with the generosity of my husband than I will ever be. Praise God this is the case and He will boldly propel His gospel forward to all the nations and I am simply an instrument of His glory.