What are ten characteristics of God-honoring generosity?
A life of generosity reflects God’s nature in a special way. Are you eager to give to meet the needs of others? The following characteristics of giving provide a helpful guide as we “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
1. The Motivation of Genuine Love
It is possible to give without loving, as we find in I Corinthians 13:3: “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor . . . and have not charity [love], it profiteth me nothing” (I Corinthians 13:3). On the other hand, God’s example demonstrates that the presence of genuine love motivates giving: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
When you genuinely love someone, you will give to meet his or her needs—without the motive of personal reward. You will give without expecting, or needing, to receive in return. The love in your heart is even more important than the gift in your hands; it gives meaning to your actions and strengthens your relationships.
This type of giving reflects God’s generosity, and through it He continues to accomplish His redemptive work. “Whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (I John 3:17–18).
2. The Aim of Bringing Pleasure to God
God is pleased with our giving because it reflects His own generous heart, it generates thanksgiving to Him, and it is a vital part of fellowship and communion within the Body of Christ.
“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver . . .” (II Corinthians 9:6–7). The Greek word for cheerful here is hilaros, which means “propitious or merry (‘hilarious’), i.e. prompt or willing.” A “hilarious” giver is one who eagerly gives God the firstfruits of his increase and takes advantage of opportunities to meet the needs of others.
The cycle of generosity continues because “. . . God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth forever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God” (II Corinthians 9:8–12).
3. The Goal to Strengthen Unity in the Body of Christ
The human body illustrates the unity and interdependence that God designed to characterize the Church. As members of the Body of Christ, we need one another. When we have much, we should give generously and graciously, and when we have needs, we should receive with humility and gratitude.
Jesus’ love toward us is an example that should inspire our interaction with one another. “Be ye therefore followers of God as dear children: and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savor” (Ephesians 5:1–2). “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (I John 3:16).
In the early Church, the needs of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem inspired the generosity of the Gentile believers whom the Apostle Paul had met on his missionary journeys. This situation forged a precious bond among the believers. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “. . . Now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want; that there may be equality” (II Corinthians 8:14).
A gift—even a cup of cold water—given to followers of Jesus will receive an eternal reward. “For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41).
4. A Response to Enemies
Love not only covers a multitude of sins, but it also can conquer our enemies. King Solomon wrote, “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee” (Proverbs 25:21–22).
One of the rewards that come by giving to an enemy is that of gaining a greater love for him. This happens because where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. (See Matthew 6:21.) This kind of love and investment can win the heart of an enemy.
5. A Way to Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
The things of this world can capture our affections, thus luring our affection away from God and tempting us to gather riches for ourselves. The Apostle Paul exhorts us with this instruction: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1–2.)
Jesus Christ warns us, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).
Both our motives and the quality of our gifts matter. When Christ returns, our work will be tested. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (I Corinthians 3:13–15).
6. Doing Good to Glorify God
As a child of God, the goal of doing good works is not to draw attention to yourself but rather to bring glory to God. Jesus said: “Ye are the light of the world. . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16). As we serve and give to meet the needs of others, let us do so in a way that reflects the nature of Christ and showcases God’s greatness and grace.
7. Acting From the Foundation of Faith
It takes faith to give without expecting to be repaid—faith that our gifts meet the needs of others, that they are pleasing to God, and that God will faithfully provide for our own needs in the future.
The Apostle Paul addressed these points when he praised the church in Philippi for their generosity. As he gladly received their aid, he said: “Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now unto God and our Father be glory forever and ever. Amen” (Philippians 4:17–20).
By faith we discern what God wants us to give and when He wants us to give it. As these gifts meet precise needs at just the right time, the faith of both giver and receiver is increased and God is glorified.
8. Developing the Fear of the Lord
The fear of the Lord is the awareness that God sees everything and that He will hold us accountable for our thoughts, motives, words, and actions. It involves a reverence for God and a desire to honor God in all that we do, including our giving. This awareness of God impacts every area of our lives. “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honor, and life” (Proverbs 22:4).
In the Old Testament, the practice of giving tithes and offerings was named as a key to learning to fear the Lord. “Thou shalt truly tithe all the increase of thy seed . . . . And thou shalt eat before the Lord thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the Lord thy God always” (Deuteronomy 14:22–23).
9. “Proving” God
When we honor God by obeying His Word and giving generously, He delights to demonstrate His power by providing abundantly for our needs. In the Book of Malachi, God invites the Israelites to “prove” Him with their obedience in giving tithes and offerings:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightful land, saith the Lord of hosts (Malachi 3:10–12).
Many other Scriptures reference God’s faithfulness to provide for those who give, such as Proverbs 3:9–10: “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.”
10. Giving With a Generous Heart
In reference to giving, the Scriptures mention having a “bountiful eye” or an “evil eye.” A bountiful eye represents a generous outlook that is alert to the needs of others. “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor” (Proverbs 22:9). On the other hand, an evil eye is a stingy, greedy outlook that avoids seeing the needs of others. “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him” (Proverbs 28:22).
As you give, set your focus on God the Father and His example of generosity: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities: who healeth all thy diseases: who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1–5).
This material is adapted from pages 13–16 of Character Sketches, Volume III.