My eight year-old daughter loves listening to the Dave Ramsey Show. Seriously. When we’re driving by ourselves, she’ll often ask if I can pull up a podcast of one of Dave’s recent shows. I know. Kind of weird.
The other day we were running errands while the show was on the radio live, and somebody asked a question about whether they should tithe off of their gross or net income. Apparently this is a question Dave gets a lot, and it launched him into a lengthy monologue about generosity. As he explained why the minimum we should give is off of our gross income, he made the comment, “Generosity makes you a better person.”
When they went to commercial, I turned off the radio and asked Abby about that statement and why it was true. We talked about how generosity doesn’t make you a better person just because generosity is moral, but that generosity makes you a better person because it makes you more like God.
We discussed the most famous verse in the Bible, which says that God loved the world so much that he GAVE (John 3:16). God made us in his image, so we are made to be givers. Not takers. Not hoarders. Givers.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be more godly. Therefore, I want to be more generous. By God’s grace, I’ve never given less than 10% of my income, and many years I’ve given more. But I’m not done. I plan to grow more and more over time in generosity.
I don’t think growing in generosity is automatic, but there are at least three decisions you can make to help you grow to be more generous.
1. Decide to learn what the Bible says about money and generosity.
I’ve already shared some of my theological convictions about our generosity being tied to God’s. But other theological truths drive me to be more generous as well. Here’s a sample:
– Money, not Satan, is what Jesus considers to be God’s primary competitor. (Matthew 6:24)
– Money is a thermometer that reveals the spiritual temperature of my heart and a thermostat that determines the spiritual temperature of my heart. (Matthew 6:21)
– God dares us to trust him with at least a full tithe. (Malachi 3:10)
– Giving should be intentional, voluntary, and cheerful. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
– If you have the true riches of Jesus, then you’re more able to give away riches that aren’t your true treasure anyway. (2 Corinthians 8:6)
God’s word is true. You can’t outgive God and you’ll never regret trying.
This summer we’re offering a Crown MoneyLife class that will take seven weeks to study and apply God’s financial principles to your life. If you’d rather read a book, Jamie Munson has a good, short one called Money: God or Gift?
2. Decide to tithe at a minimum.
This may sound like the same as point #1, but it’s not. It’s possible to know what the Bible says, but not do anything about it. You can rationalize in all kinds of ways. But one of the early steps toward becoming generous is to make a decision to give a tithe (tithe means “tenth”).
For me it went something like, “No matter what, I will give the first 10% of my income to the Lord.”
Until you make that decision, it will always be a wrestling match. But once you make the decision, you can say to yourself, “Well, that’s already been decided.”
Sound legalistic? Consider this quote by Randy Alcorn:
“I’ve heard Christians argue—often angrily—that tithing is legalism…However, the average American Christian gives 2.5%. Even using 10% as a measure, the Israelites were four times more responsive to the Law of Moses than the average American Christian is to the grace of Christ…When we as New Testament believers, living in a far more affluent society than ancient Israel, give only a fraction of that given by the poorest Old Testament believers, we surely must reevaluate our concept of ‘grace giving.’ And when you consider that we have the indwelling of the Spirit of God and they didn’t, the contrast becomes even more glaring… If you fear legalism, fine, start at 11 or 12 percent.”
For married people, this decision must–of course–be made with your spouse. It’s more challenging if one person is a Christian and another isn’t. But do the hard work of getting on the same page. For me and Molly, we took a Crown Financial class early in our marriage and it helped us decide to trust that God could do more 90% of our income than we could do with 100%.
3. Decide to automate your giving.
For years I did not want do any kind of automatic giving. It felt like it wasn’t as worshipful or authentic if we didn’t actually drop a physical check in the box at church.
But a few years ago we went a number of months without giving.
Not on purpose, of course. We hit a stretch my wife and kids were sick multiple times over the course of a month. Then we forgot our checkbook a few times (after all, who carries a checkbook still?). Then we brought our checks to church but forgot to give them.
After that season, it occurred to me that giving is more worshipful than not giving. The Bible doesn’t seem to care what method I use to give, but it does seem to care that I give.
From that point on, we set up automatic giving through our bank’s “Bill-Pay” feature. We determined how much and how often we want to give. The bank cuts a check from our account, mails it to the church, and that’s how we give.
This summer, I’ll be gone for 10 weeks on sabbatical. But I’ll still give every two weeks even when I’m gone. What a huge blessing to be able to keep obeying God financially even when I can’t be there physically.
It’s also quite easy to set up automatic giving online through the church and increasing numbers of people are giving this way on a regular basis.
God created you to be generous. God used generosity to redeem you from your sin. And God is calling you to love him and your neighbor by growing in generosity.
These decisions aren’t the last step in generosity, but they are important first steps. If you haven’t made them now, it’s time. It will make you a better person. Just ask my eight year-old.