In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus took some time to address the issue of giving for His followers. We find that section as Matthew 6 begins:
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4).
There is much to say about these verses. We could talk about how Jesus is well aware of our ability to twist the right action with our wrong motives; we could talk about our propensity to need to be liked and thought well of by those around us; we could talk about the potential hypocrisy lurking in all our hearts as the praise of God competes with the praise of men. But before coming to all that, let me draw your attention to one word in verse 2:
Not “if.” Or “in case.” But whenever. This is the word Jesus uses when addressing our generosity and willingness to give materially to help those in need.
That’s instructive because it tells us that Jesus is assuming that Christ followers will be givers. That we will be generous. So He doesn’t bother to tell us to give; He assumes we already are, and wants to instruct us on the nature of that giving. Generosity, for the Christian, ought to be ingrained into the fabric of who we are; it should simply be part of our regular operation in daily life. And though we might know this is true intellectually, we still struggle.
We have questions about our generosity. We wonder things like:
- Will we have enough if we are to give this portion of money away?
- Will we be satisfied if we are forced to live on what is left after we give?
- Will the amount that we are giving even make a difference?
These are good questions. Valid questions. They’re not questions that excuse us from generously giving, but they are questions that can and should be answered nonetheless. And there are answers. The answers are found in the character of God. Specifically, there are certain attributes of God that fuel our generosity. Let me give you three:
1. God is faithful.
God’s faithfulness fuels our generosity. When Jesus told us to pray, He told us to pray for our “daily bread.” Not tomorrow’s bread; not retirement bread; but “daily” bread. When we do that, we can do it with a supreme degree of confidence because of God’s faithfulness. We can pray with joy knowing that God will give us what we need.
What’s more, we can look behind us over the course of our lives and see a slew of examples of God’s faithfulness in our wake. We can see examples of His faithfulness when we were aware of Him and when we were not; when we prayed, and even when we didn’t; when He gave us what we asked for and when He delivered something we didn’t think we wanted at the time. In all cases, He has been faithful.
The question of “will we have enough” is not answered by our wise planning; it’s answered by faith in God’s continuing faithfulness.
2. God is generous.
We might, as we are contemplating our commitment to be generous, the question of whether we will be able to be satisfied with less. We will clearly have less money to live on if we give some away, so can we actually be satisfied with what is left? The answer is “yes,” and it’s yes because of the generosity of God.
One of the great lies that we believe over and over again is that God is holding out on us. It is, in fact, the same lie that the serpent fed to Eve on the day of the fall – that there is another tree that has the best fruit, and this best fruit is what God is actually keeping from you. So it is with us. We look at our jobs, our families, our incomes, and we foster the belief that God is holding out on us. And yet the truth is completely opposite.
God is not holding out on us because there’s nothing left for Him to hold out. He has already given us every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). The generosity of God in Christ fuels our own generosity because we are reminded that no matter how much we give away, we are rich in Jesus.
3. God is intentional.
God is many things, but He is not arbitrary. He is intentional. What we have, we have because God has seen fit to give it to us intentionally. Take, for example, Jesus’ parable of the talents. One of the things you notice straight away in the story is that the landowner gives different amounts to the servants (Matt. 25:14). The same is true of God.
Friend, you have what you have because God intentionally decided you ought to have what you have. This intentionality of God fuels our generosity because it reminds us that we have been entrusted with specific things, and specific amounts, for the sake of the kingdom. If God is this purposeful, then we also must be intentionally generous.
So how much should you give? I don’t know. But whatever that amount is, don’t let it it be a grudgingly random amount. Instead, allow the truth of who God is to fuel your passion for generosity.