A discussion of generosity always comes back to spending money and material things. So, I am going to discuss those things now. It is important to note, however, that there are infinitely many ways to be generous and spread good. We will discuss these in a minute. “For the love of money is the root of all evil which: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”lxxii It is what you do with money that determines how God views it. A hundred dollars that is used to feed a poor family has a different value than a hundred dollars used to feed a drug habit. Money simply makes you more of what you already were before you had the money. If, before you had an abundance of money, you were generous, then an abundance of money will make you generous in abundance. If you were greedy, before having an abundance of money, then an abundance of money will make you greedier. Money shows where your heart really is. If you want to find out what type of person you are, then take a look at where you spend your money.
Don’t let money be your guide. Just as many people have found out over the last several years in the stock market, you could have lots of money one day; then the next day be in the pits of poverty. Money can’t give you love or strength. Don’t look to money for what only God can give you.
“Love of money” does not apply just to people who have, but also to those who lack it. You can be in the depths of poverty and have more greed than a billionaire.
If you don’t have a lot of money to give above your 10%, find ways to get free stuff at the grocery stores, pharmacies and super stores (e.g., Target, Wal-Mart, and others). Clipping coupons for “freebies” is a great way to give back and you’re just using your time to gather the food and personal care items to give to the food bank or shelters.
Along the lines of the item above, some food banks and shelters take coupons so that they can use them when adding to their stockpiles. Donate the coupon sections from your Sunday paper; it saves them a ton of money!
Do “spring” cleaning (it doesn’t really matter what season). Go through your clothes, closets, garage, pantry; figure out what you are just not using and donate it to places or people who need it and will actually use it. This act will not only benefit someone else, but it’s proven that purging your life of “clutter” frees you up emotionally, physically and spiritually…. less stuff, less stress!
Like anything worth having, learning to become generous is not always easy. Up to this point, you may have spent a whole lifetime seeking selfish and self-serving objectives. The best advice I can give is to be patient.
You are ultimately striving for a heart of generosity. Strive to do the following and you will eventually succeed: “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others, as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” and “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’”lxxiii
I have included some practical ideas and suggestions to help you in your desire to be generous. I suggest that you start locally. In other words, you don’t need to go on a mission trip to Africa to be living in a spirit of generosity. You can start right where you are.
Be Neighborly: Have you ever just said ‘hi’ to someone passing on the street? That is where being neighborly
When you learn to be friendly, you begin to create a positive environment around yourself and everyone you encounter. You are taking constructive action, which will lead to more goodwill between other people until a network of positive interactions develop.
One of the greatest joys and therefore greatest opportunities, for success, comes from shining light into places that are dark. “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”lxxiv
Do Something Nice Every day: Find someone you don’t know, a complete stranger, and do something nice for them. You don’t have to take them out to dinner or give them a million dollars, just do something nice. Some examples that I like are holding the door open at the store or letting someone merge in traffic. Try going to the mall around Christmas time and simply walk in and out of the mall at different spots, holding the door open for other people. You will be surprised at people’s reactions and they will be just as surprised at your generosity.
If you want to take this suggestion one step further, find someone you don’t like and do nice things for them. Maybe you can bring a thoughtful gift to that co-worker who irritates you or move your annoying neighbor’s trash cans off the road, so that traffic doesn’t crush them. This is somewhat challenging but it will get easier the more you do it.
The point is, it’s easy to do nice things for people we know and like. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”lxxv
Experiment: We are all unique. In order for you to find a talent, ability, or gifting that you can share, you must experiment. Try different activities that allow you to sow goodness into other people’s lives. We are not all meant to run the youth group at church or volunteer in the local soup kitchen on Thanksgiving.
You might be athletic; in which case you would be a good candidate to coach a youth sports league. Maybe you have a talent for organization, which would make you useful to many charities around Christmas time. There you would organize the incoming Christmas donations at your church or another organization. If you’re good at serving, you may be able to fulfill a need at the local homeless shelter.
The point is to find your unique combination of talents, abilities and gifts; find out where you would be most useful.
Share Information: You are knowledgeable about something. Share your knowledge with someone who may be seeking it. Don’t go overboard with this by being a know it all, but be ready to help someone who may be seeking your specialized knowledge. Are you gifted in mathematics? Try volunteering in an after-school program that tutors struggling teenagers. Find your gifting and use it! “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.“lxxvi
Sow Encouragement: We have all heard the phrase, “what goes around, comes around.” This is true in many areas of life, especially with encouragement. I have seen the good that encouragement produces. When you help someone with kind words, it will be remembered and reciprocated when you are in need of encouragement.
Learn to be generous with encouragement and stingy with criticism. “The people who are lifting the world onward and upward are those who encourage more than they criticize.”lxxvii
Who you become is measured, in large part, by who you attract. So, if you want encouragement in your own life, make sure that you are being generous with it yourself.
Offer Wisdom: Whether you believe it or not, you can be the voice of wisdom in someone else’s life. You have had a set of unique experiences and life lessons that can be of use to another human being. Look for opportunities to be
of help to someone who needs you. “The light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us.”lxxviii
My only caution here is to make sure that the wisdom you are offering is true wisdom and not an opinion based on your ego. Make sure what you are offering to someone is useful.
You might have very specific wisdom to offer. If you are a college biology instructor, you may be able to offer wisdom that helps a struggling student about that subject. You might have wisdom that covers a broad topic, such as relationships. In this case, you may be able to offer help on many different occasions. It is important to identify areas of wisdom so that you are in a better position to help other people when the occasion arises.
Stand in Faith: Giving when you don’t think you have enough, grows your faith. You cannot go and give generously one day and expect to have good things flowing into your life because of it. No, you must apply faith and continue to give, even when it looks as if nothing is changing in your life.
You must persist in doing good, no matter what is happening around you. “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”lxxix
There was a time when this point was proven in my life and I have stood upon it many times since. My wife and I have always donated to Toys for Tots, but there was one particular period where I had been out of work for over a year. We were almost out of money and saw little hope of being able to give to this organization, as we had in the past. We decided to ignore the “evidence” and give gifts to this organization anyway. We took the last of our savings and went into the toy store. We then dropped the toys off at a collection center. I received a job offer the following day. That’s how faith works.
Visualize: Like many areas of life, visualization makes generosity easier and more effective. When you learn to see
yourself, in your own mind being generous, it is much easier to do it in the physical.
Practice seeing yourself giving at church, to the guy ringing the bell outside the grocery store, or wherever else you encounter opportunities to be generous. Don’t forget to visualize yourself giving more than just money. See yourself giving of your time, talent, information, ability, etc.
Don’t Expect Anything: As I have discovered, you will get many returns on your generosity; just don’t expect it! When you are expecting to be repaid for your kindness, you are doing it with the wrong motives.
Remember that you are in control of your actions, not the results. You could do good, but it might not be perceived that way by the recipient of your good deed or action. Should you stop doing good? Of course not.
Another thing to consider is that many times the good you receive from your generosity will come from unexpected places. If you are being generous, let it return to you. We will discuss this in the next section, but for now, stop keeping score!
Michael at R2W
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