When looking at a measly income and a mountain of student debt, one might assume that God’s call to generosity doesn’t apply, at least not until your finances look less terrifying. However, financial struggles don’t free us from God’s command to give generously and joyfully. The Lord calls us to generosity, not because he needs our resources, but because he desires the best for us.
Generosity requires trust, not money. No one can live generously without trusting the Lord. A wealthy person can give vast amounts of money apart from Christ, but true generosity requires sacrificial giving in joyful submission to the Lord. For that, one must trust that God is a good Father who will provide for you and that you matter to Him. Generosity pushes us further into knowing and trusting the love of God. No matter my income level, if I don’t trust God to provide for me, I’ll lead toward hoarding my resources.
Recently my husband was laid off, and our cushy income vanished. My first instinct was to stop all of our monthly giving and hoard everything we had. Thankfully, my husband called me out on that. We continue to give, trusting God will provide for our family and thanking him that we still get the opportunity to sow into the kingdom. If we get close to the bottom of our savings, we may need to prayerfully re-evaluate. But no matter what, we will continue to choose to trust rather than fear.
When Christ tells the crowds in the sermon on the mount, “do not be anxious about what you will eat…or wear,” he appeals to the Fatherhood of God. Look at the goodness of God toward the created world. Is your Heavenly Father not much more good to you? Do not be anxious about these things, but seek your Father’s Kingdom. Trust Him. He will take care of you. (Matthew 6:25-34) Similarly, Paul exhorts the church at Philippi to overcome anxiety and to “let your request be made to God.” He reminds them that the Lord is at hand. We have much cause for joy (Phil 4:4-7). The scriptures point the anxious to the nearness, goodness, and Fatherliness of God.
In addition to the opportunity to practice trusting God, the call to generosity gives us an opportunity for worship. The tradition of tithing originates from the story of Melchizedek, a foreshadower of Christ, to whom Abram gave a tenth of all he had. Melchizedek was the King of Salem (peace) who won a battle for Abram and blessed him. In response, Abram gave him a tenth of everything he had. In the ancient Near East, giving a tenth of everything one had meant “All that I have is yours.” Christ has rescued us. He won a battle for us at the Cross, and he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. In worship, we respond, “All that I have is yours: money, time, gifts, degrees, skills, resources, everything.”
Tight finances make this harder. I’ve had times when I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from. Despite my own urgent need, I still felt called to drop a handful of change into the offering box. I wondered if it made any difference, if it was even worth giving, but the Lord said that the small faithful gift, given from need, is more worth to him than the riches given out of abundance.
Christ sees your faithfulness, just as he saw the widow who gave a mere penny (Mark 12:41-44). He didn’t point out the many who were giving out of abundance, but only the lowly widow who gave everything she had: barely anything at all. Widows frequently had little social standing and less money. They were overlooked and forgotten. But Christ saw her and honored her faithfulness. He called her gift greater than those of the rich. In the same way, he sees you, your tight budget, and the mountain of debt. He sees the quiet faithfulness of the small gift. Imagine him in Heaven, calling his disciples over, and saying, “See this disciple. She has given more than all of those with abundant means. She is faithful.”
Paul thanks the Philippians for their financial support to him by telling them that he doesn’t seek his own good in their gift, but theirs. He seeks “the fruit that increases to their credit. Once again, giving is not about the money. Through generosity we obey God and worship Him. Not because he needs our money, but because our good Father has invited us into the joy of His work.
Heather is a former campus minister and current stay at home mom who spends a surprising amount of time playing with toy trains. She writes occasionally at heatherhocking.com, but mostly loves to volunteer in her community and read books.