by Ron Bare
What Does Biblical Generosity Look Like for the Average Wealthy American?
The above title applies to most everyone reading this blog – I know this is true because anyone that earns $30,000 per year is in the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest people. Just the fact that we were born in the United States and had the opportunity to be educated and have been given access to a job automatically puts us in this category. Many of us even fall into the top .3% of the world’s wealthiest (if you earn more than $60,000 per year).
1 Timothy 6: 17-18 says “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.”
In the Old Testament, the Jewish law commanded a 10% tithe on the first fruits of all income as well as other tithes and offerings on top of the 10 percent. When added together these came to over 20% per year (Deut. 14:22-29). Many Christians today teach and believe in the 10% tithe as the primary objective when considering how much to give to the local church and Christian charities. While this may be a good principle to apply, when asking God to define generosity in your life, 10% should not be the end goal of our giving.
New Testament giving is similar to other parts of Jewish law in that Jesus raised the bar. Consider how Jesus taught on murder: “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement” (Matt. 5:22). Or consider His words on adultery: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). Still other teachings on divorce, oaths and revenge all in Matthew 5 raise the bar on the standards God has given us.
Giving in the New Testament always centers on generosity: giving with joy and abundance. The Jewish law has been fulfilled by Jesus and many of the principles still apply, only taken to a new, higher standard. After all, “For God so loved the world that he GAVE, his one and only son,” this is the ultimate price and gift that God gave us in the death of His Son. Therefore, Biblical generosity does not focus on a percent or an amount, but has a focus on generosity, being ready to share, and a willingness to give richly to those in need and fulfill the calling on our lives – which primarily is to fulfill the great commission.
Practically, what does this mean for us? It starts by answering the question, “Who owns the money I have?” Psalms 24:1 says “The earth is the Lords and everything in it.” If God owns all we have, then we must follow with another question: “What does God want me to do with His money?” Giving generously is a theme in the Bible and defining generosity is answered only in a relationship with God. Only He can lead you to the answer. This answer will lead you to a life of better contentment and understanding of the Biblical truth that “It is better to give than receive” – Jesus (Acts 20:35).
Finally, Paul also tells us in Corinthians that we should “excel in our grace of giving”. To excel in any area of life we must work at it, practice, or push ourselves to new areas – whether physically, emotionally or spiritually. To excel in giving these same principles apply: we must work at it and take steps of faith to stretch ourselves. Finally, the best part of all of this is that giving generously comes with great promises! Continuing from the above 1 Timothy passage, verse 19 says: “By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.”