One day after school when I was about 6-years-old, my mom told me that we would be making a stop at the toy store on the way home.
“Tee, I need to get a Christmas gift for your god-sister. I want your honest opinion because she’s about your age,” she told me. “Pick something that you would want for yourself.”
I remember sticking my chest out with pride at the prospect of giving her my input. However, once we were inside the store I could only think about all the things I wanted for myself. My mom tried to coax an opinion out of me a few times.
“Do you think she would like this? What do you think about this doll?” I would offer a half-hearted “Sure” or shrug indifferently. I didn’t want to pick a toy for another girl after seeing half a dozen things I wanted for myself.
Finally, I picked the nearest baby doll and assured my mom it would be fine. She paid and I reluctantly followed her out of the store. I forgot all about this incident until weeks later when Christmas rolled around. Amid my myriad gifts, I was surprised to find the very doll I had chosen without thought! My mom watched my face closely and said she had wanted to give me the chance to pick my own gift without ruining the surprise. I tried to look pleased, but I was stunned and more than a little disappointed with myself. If I had given real thought to her request and embraced the opportunity to give another child a gift, the blessing would have come back to me.
Yourdictionary.com defines generosity as “readiness or willingness to give; the quality of being willing to share.”
If you are like me, when you think about having a generous spirit, the first thing that comes to mind is money, but there is so much more to giving than that. The principle of generosity is weaved in and out of scripture. God Himself is portrayed as the embodiment of generosity in giving His Son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins. In His life on Earth, Jesus made it plain that generosity isn’t about isolated acts, but rather a lifestyle that is others-focused. He was constantly giving of Himself- His wisdom, His time, His kindness and encouragement. By His unselfish example He demonstrated that we all have something to give.
So how can we practice generosity in our daily lives?
Generosity with our time
We all have 24 hours in a day, but somehow it never seems like enough. We live in a fast-paced world that never stops and time is a precious commodity. Is there someone in your life that you can invest in? Is there a child who needs mentoring? A friend who needs a listening ear? An elderly neighbor who could use help around the house? Time given to uplift others is time well-spent.
“And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” Hebrews 13:16 (NLT)
Generosity with our abilities
Do you love to sing or play an instrument? Do you have a practical skill like plumbing or electrical work? Maybe you have the gift of teaching or are good with finances. Whatever your talent or skill, ask God to show you opportunities to use it to help others. Bring the joy of music into a dreary place. Help with the repairs at a place that desperately needs the work done but can’t afford it. Tutor those young people who have stopped believing in themselves. Our talents and gifts were given to brighten the lives around us.
Generosity with our belongings
When it comes to the things that I own, I often face a dilemma you may be familiar with. When I need something to wear it seems I don’t have much at all, but when I have to pack or reorganize my stuff I suddenly have far more than I need! Are there extra clothes, shoes, books, electronics or other things around your house that you’re saving for a just-in-case or a rainy day? Occasionally, it’s a good idea to prayerfully look through the things we own for ways to bless others who may need something more than we do. Our apparent clutter could be their answered prayer.
“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT)
Generosity with our money
The idea of giving can be daunting because what we have to offer may look small in comparison to the great need that surrounds us. The old saying goes “little is much when God is in it.” It’s safe to say your donation won’t solve world hunger, but God cares more about the heart of the giver than the quantity of the gift. You may know a teacher who needs supplies, a young mother who needs baby clothes, or a family who could use groceries. What creative ways can you find to bless others?
Christian author Randy Alcorn wrote, “The single greatest deterrent to giving and to living more simply is the illusion that this world is our home.”
As we ask God to open our eyes and change our priorities, we will realize that we are only stewards of our time, abilities, possessions, and money. He will show us how to use them all for the greatest good- His glory.
“The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25 (NLT)