Be a Generous Person (Give Generously)
Help others, tithe, and give offerings
Doug Britton, MFT
Introduction to generous giving
If you were to read all the verses in the Bible dealing with money, you would find that a vast number of them are about generosity—giving to the work of the Lord and helping people in need. Over and over, God tells us to be generous people.
Overview of this series on money and finances
This online Bible study is part of a series of studies on money and finances. More detailed information on these topics can be found in the book Putting Money in its Place. (Although written for married couples, the practical, scriptural information in this book also applies to single people who want to handle their finances in a biblical manner.)
- Part 1: Acknowledge that God Owns Everything.
- Part 2: See yourself as God’s Steward (or assistant)
- Part 3: Love God, not money
- Part 4: Be a generous person
- Part 5: Spend (God’s) money wisely
God gives us wealth so we can be generous
Many people don’t understand the importance of generosity. They hold on tightly to what they own, unaware that selfishness often causes financial difficulties.
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. (2 Corinthians 9:11)
One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. (Proverbs 11:24)
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6)
Be generous with your time and talents
Whether or not you have a lot of money or material possessions, be a generous person with your time, looking for ways to help your church, other ministries, or people in need. Follow Christ’s example by showing a passionate concern for others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7)
Be especially generous if you are well off
Although everyone is called to be generous, you should be especially so if you are wealthy. Do not be embarrassed by your wealth, but remember it is not your money. Use it to bless others.
Command those who are rich … to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Follow biblical examples
Regardless of your financial situation, God wants you to look for ways to bless others. Let the following examples from the Bible encourage you to use your resources—your money and your home—to further the kingdom of God.
- Mary Magdalene and other women helped support Jesus and the apostles (Luke 8:1-3).
- Joseph, a wealthy man, provided his own tomb for Jesus (Matthew 27:57-60). Nicodemus supplied expensive spices for the burial (John 19:39).
- Priscilla and Aquila invited Apollos to their home to tell him about Jesus (Acts 18:26).
- The Corinthians gave money to help impoverished Christians in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8 and 9).
- Philemon opened his home for church meetings (Philemon 2).
Be generous — Give to the work of the Lord
Give a tithe
For thousands of years, people have given a tithe (ten percent) and more of what they earn back to God in gratitude for his love. We read in the Old Testament:
A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the land, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. (Leviticus 27:30)
Tithing was considered so important that failing to tithe was described as robbing God.
Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, “How do we rob you?” In tithes and offerings. (Malachi 3:8)
Since we are no longer under the law, some people think we are not required to tithe. They often add that tithing is not mentioned in the New Testament. However, when Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, he said they were right to tithe one tenth of everything (Luke 11:42).
No matter how you view tithing, there is no question that the New Testament teaches us to give generously. Study chapters 8 and 9 of 2 Corinthians to see how important this is to God. If you have a heart to touch the world for Christ, you should be eager to give to the work of the Lord and to help others in need.
Support your church
Give generously to your local church. It is where you are fed and you are responsible to help support it. Although it’s okay to also help other ministries, be sure your tithe goes into the storehouse — your church.
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse. (Malachi 3:10)
Give special offerings
In addition to giving a tithe to your church, give additional offerings for special needs. Many ministries—such as missionaries, college pastors, relief organizations, crisis pregnancy centers, and Christian legal action groups—depend on generous donations. Ask God to direct you to projects and organizations he would like you to support.
Be generous — Help people in need
Throughout the Bible, we are instructed to reach out to those in need, particularly offering generous help to those who are poor.
If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered. (Proverbs 21:13)
The Bible tells us to help other Christians. God refers to all Christians collectively as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). We are family.
Now about the collection for God’s people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:15-16)
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)
We aren’t only told to be generous with fellow believers. We are to help others as well. God created everyone who is alive. Every person is precious to him.
A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor. (Proverbs 22:9)
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
Related: See Yourself as God’s Steward (or Assistant)
As a steward of God’s money, you are responsible to be generous, but exercise wisdom when you give. Don’t think you must donate to every need. You are not responsible to help each one of the hundreds of ministries you may hear about. Pray for wisdom, then make choices. Once you make choices, don’t feel guilty or sinful if you throw away a letter soliciting funds, even if it’s for a worthy cause.
The following suggestions can help you donate money wisely.
Pray for wisdom
Ask God for “knowledge and depth of insight” (Philippians 1:9). Try to identify real needs.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:9-10)
It’s easy to get caught up in an emotional response when hearing a plea for help. Pray before making a commitment to give money. If you think you may be too caught up in the feeling of the moment, give yourself permission to wait and pray for a day before deciding to give.
Give to your local church
Give your tithe to your church. Then consider giving extra offerings to it also. By giving offerings for missionaries and various ministries to your church, you can have more confidence where the money is going.
Support Christian workers you know
My wife and I feel a sense of confidence and excitement when we support the ministries of people we know personally and people recommended by our children.
Evaluate the need if you give to an individual
If you have a friend who is a single mother struggling to make ends meet, a helping hand may go a long way. On the other hand, if you have a friend who is living irresponsibly, bailing him or her out may be the worst thing you could do.
For example, giving cash probably is not the best way to help a malnourished, alcoholic parent. Be generous, but consider giving a meal instead.
Give to local Christian relief organizations
Although my wife and I occasionally give money to people in financial trouble, we usually prefer to give to organizations, not individuals. Local shelters and feed-the-hungry programs have the experience and expertise to make sure the money is used in the best way.
Evaluate unknown organizations
When a ministry you know little about asks for help, research it as best you can. Is it a member of a Christian financial accountability organization? Does your church or denomination endorse it? Are your friends familiar with it?
If you get burned, don’t become stingy
If you are generous, it’s likely someone will try to take advantage of you at one time or another. If this happens, don’t let the experience stop you from being generous. Pray for the person who misused your help, and ask God to help you be wise in the future.
Give with the right attitude
Give from a thankful heart
God is interested in your heart, not just your actions.
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
Don’t give as a financial transaction — to get rich
Many Scriptures tell us that God rewards generosity. However, if self-interest is our primary motive for giving, we are making a major mistake.
Instead, we should be glad to acknowledge God’s love with our love, service and gifts, happy to return to God what is really his.
Related: Acknowledge that God Owns Everything
Not all generous Christians get rich. God promises to meet our needs and often rewards our generosity financially. However, other times the refreshment he gives is spiritual—something much more precious than money.
Look, for example, at Paul’s life. He poured his life out to touch the world for Christ, yet he often found himself lacking in material things (Philippians 4:11-13). What he did receive, however, was a deep relationship with God and a joyful spirit (Philippians 2:17, 4:4; Colossians 1:24).
When you give, you store up treasures in heaven. We are refreshed physically, spiritually, or both while here on earth. But much more importantly, we store up treasures in heaven.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19-20)
Give to please God, not to put on a show in front of other people. There are exceptions, but in general, give privately.
Be careful not to do your “acts of righteousness” before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)
If you give money to an individual, it is often best to do so anonymously. One way to do this could be to give cash to your pastor or another trustworthy person who would then give it to the person in need.
However, the Bible does not demand that we give secretly. Jesus said not to give “to be seen” (Matthew 6:1). When he said this, he was telling us not to show off in front of other people. A few verses later, he made a similar point when he said to pray privately (Matthew 6:5-6), not to show off publicly. The emphasis was on our motives. It was not to forbid praying publicly, something Jesus often did (Matthew 14:19, 19:13; Mark 14:22-24).
There are times when it’s okay to let others know about your giving. For example, it usually would not be wise to hide your giving from your spouse. And it would deprive your children of a good example if they never knew about your generosity.
Enjoy the privilege of giving generously, but don’t become proud about what you are doing. Remember that it is God who gives you the ability to share. Be thankful for the privilege of giving.
But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. (1 Chronicles 29:14)
Do not be embarrassed if you can only give a little
Don’t be uncomfortable if you earn little and therefore don’t have much money to give. God is interested in your heart. Give a percentage of what you have. Do not be embarrassed because you are not rich.
For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. (2 Corinthians 8:12)
Related: Putting Money in its Place
1. Do you have a generous heart? Are you a generous person?
2. Do you make generous donations to your church?
3. Do you show generosity to poor and needy people?
4. Do you think God is pleased with your level of giving?
5. Do you need to make any changes in how you approach giving?
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About Doug Britton, MFT
Doug Britton, Bible-based Marriage and Family Therapist, has helped hundreds of thousands of people as a therapist, clinical director of a treatment center, seminar speaker, radio cohost, and author of over twenty books that show how to apply God's truths in your daily life. (Visit www.dougbrittonbooks.com.)
Copyright © 2020 Doug Britton. Permission granted to print for personal use. (Scripture verses are from the New International Version, copyright © 1984.) See reprint policy.