The important distinction between generosity and thoughtfulness

I had an interaction once with someone who had a child with a sweet little toy. Unfortunately that child was going to head out of town soon, and she couldn’t take the toy with her. So the child had to either give the toy away or toss it. The child decided to give it away to one of my children, to which the parent of said child said, “That was so generous of you!”

Something felt very wrong about that statement to me. Was it generous to give something to someone that you were going to get rid of anyway? I thought about the times our family had given away clothes and things to the local resale shop. Was I being “generous” at those times?

What is biblical generosity?

I’ve contemplated this quite a bit, and I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to be very careful how we define generosity, especially to our children. This is not about splitting hairs, but about the character-building, righteous act of generosity we are called to do as Believers.

Luke 21:1-4 demonstrates this perfectly:

Now He looked up and saw the wealthy putting their gifts into the temple treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all contributed to the offering from their surplus; but she, from her poverty, put in all that she had to live on.”

Giving from our excess versus sacrificially

We can go back and forth on the wisdom of whether or not the widow should have given all she had to live on, but that’s not the point of the passage or my point. The point is the difference between offering something of our surplus rather than something that is a sacrifice. The gift of that child to my child was kind and thoughtful, but considering the fact that the toy was going to be thrown away regardless, I don’t think it merits being in the category of “generous.”

As an example of a sacrificial gift our family has received, I will never forget the incredible generosity of a friend of ours when the dreaded virus hit our home. This friend went to a local toy store and purchased games and toys for our brood because she figured they would be losing their minds being indoors for so long (this was back when we needed to isolate for 10 days from when the last person was positive. LORD help me, that was awful). This wasn’t a financial sacrifice for her, but rather it was a sacrifice of her time and talents (she picked awesome toys!) that she did not have to do. She went out of her way to bless our family, just because she knew we could use some encouragement. Now THAT is generosity.

Why it’s important to distinguish

I believe it’s important to distinguish between the thoughtfulness of the first story I referred to, and the generosity of my friend from above. To be clear, they are both wonderful blessings! There are situations where being thoughtful is 100% appropriate and good. However, if we teach our kids that giving exclusively out of our abundance is considered generous, they’ll have a much harder time giving when it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable, which is what true generosity is. Generosity inherently has at least some kind of sacrifice. It’s not about money, but it’s much more about thinking of others as more important than ourselves (Phil 2:3).

Our children tend to be very, very selfish. And if I’m being honest, I tend to be very, very selfish. Living in a way that honors Christ must be an intentional effort that we must model for our children. It doesn’t just “happen,” generally speaking. Perhaps some people struggle with things such as selfishness less than I do, but clearly, we all have our struggles. It doesn’t matter what the topic may be – we are called to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16). And that means, living in a posture of generosity and obedience to God’s Word, regardless of whether it’s inconvenient and/or causes us to be uncomfortable.

Many of us can give out of our excess without a second thought. You know why? Because if what is being asked of us we have in abundance, it often doesn’t hold as much value to us. It may be a huge blessing to the recipient, but let’s not get things twisted. Generosity is deeper than that. It could still involve our excess but there should be some kind of sacrifice on our part involved. That will include our time, talent, or treasure.

What does the Bible say about generosity?

I love what God’s Word says about generosity:

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Luke 6:38

The LORD provides so many incredible examples of generous Believers, including Corrie Ten Boom and George Mueller, to name just a few. And obviously the best example is Jesus Christ, Himself. LORD, help me not only be thoughtful, but biblically generous. Amen?

©2024 Mud Hen Mama


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