Oftentimes, when the term generosity
comes up in a church context, we hear feedback from the congregation that the church talks about money too much
or the church never talks
about money. Yet, the word generosity
does not inherently relate to money
. In fact, if we look at the definition of generosity, the dictionary gives us this: “the quality of being kind and generous” and “the quality or fact of being plentiful or large”. Synonyms for generosity include liberality, magnanimity, abundance, kindness, honor,
. Which of these is related to money? None of them!
Even when we talk about giving
, we’re not always referring to money. The definition of giving
doesn’t even mention money. Instead, giving is defined as “providing love or other emotional support; caring” and “freely devote, set aside, or sacrifice for a purpose.” The closest definition of giving that can be tied to finances doesn’t even state money outright: “freely transfer the possession of (something) to (someone); hand over to.”
So, if generosity and giving don’t actually mean money, why do we constantly associate these words with financial gifts? Let’s dig into what these words actually mean to us here at Memorial Park, and the Biblical connection we make to these terms.
Money. Let’s talk about it.
Now, when we talk about generosity in the church, of course we are going to talk about money at some point. We’re not immune to that conversation. And talking about money is hard. Whether that is because you were raised in the era when sharing financial information with others was considered taboo or you feel embarrassed by the state of your own finances (or even because you don’t even know where to begin!), when we talk about money, things get uncomfortable. But that doesn’t have to be the case! We actually have a few great staff members who would love
to talk to you about money! How to budget, setting goals, financial planning, and so many other numbers-type things! If you have questions, we have someone to answer them! (Start by emailing Catherine Pavlock, Executive Director of Operations. She heads up our Financial Ministries efforts!).
Yet, we’re not going to tackle all the nitty gritty here. We’re going to talk about the tithe and what we mean when we say generosity
in context of money.
So, what is a tithe? Biblically speaking, we believe that the tithe is 10% of the “first fruits” that are given voluntarily to the Church as an investment in the future.
First Fruit, what? Yeah. Things can get confusing. Let’s put this in a practical example: if I were to make $1,000 a week, then as soon as I got my paycheck on Friday, I’d set aside $100 that I would voluntarily give to the church. Not because it’s another bill to pay, but because I believe in supporting the future of not only my church through the 10% the Bible says we should share, but also because I belie in the ministry work that they are doing. I’m supporting a cause that is important to me. I am giving
of myself to support the church.
Now, if I set aside more than the 10% tithe, that goes above and beyond and is what we often refer to as a sacrificial offering
or just offering
. This is part of the concept of generosity
: using that same example from above, I know have more than enough to spare and want to give above and beyond to the church, so I set aside $150 a week off the top of my paycheck. Again, I don’t look at this giving or generosity as another bill to pay, this is part of my celebration of God and His work in my life. If you believe in something wholeheartedly as we believe in Christ, then you want to support it however you can, right?
The long and short of it: We believe that the tithe is an important part of living transformed, not the beginning of a transaction! If you want to dig into all of our Biblical basis for our beliefs on the tithe, you can check out the White Paper by the Elders of Memorial Park on Finances and Giving.
Now that that’s over, what do giving and generosity also mean?
Congrats! You made it through the section about money. That wasn’t so hard, right? Now let’s get to the other ways we look at giving and generosity.
In a new study by Barna and Thrivent, survey participants identified service and volunteering and the most important act of generosity,
followed by emotional/relational support. This isn’t surprising because we are made to be relational people! We long for connection and relationships, and here at MPC, we strive to build relationships by providing opportunities for our members and visitors to get to know one another and to know Jesus. How? By being generous and giving with one another.
Giving and Generosity are sometimes about sharing your time and talents with others. What does this mean? Let’s look at this first in terms of what you’re really good at.
I’ll give you another personal example: I have a background in writing of many different kinds. At one point in my career, I was freelancing for a company that job seekers could hire to write their resumes. While this didn’t end up being a long-term career path for me, the skills helped me with a different type of writing style. The experience also led me to offer my resume writing skills to a non-profit in the city that provides free services to underprivileged job seekers, including free business attire, interview coaching, resume building, and more. The best part of that experience, for me, is getting to see these job seekers come back and say “yes! I scored an interview”. I love sharing what I am good at with others who may not be great at writing a resume, but have different talents to share with others.
Being able to share the things that you’re really good at in a different context than just work (or even just a hobby you’re really great at) gives you an opportunity to form relationships, share knowledge, and spark your own sense of accomplishment in helping someone, just by giving
of your talents and being generous
with your knowledge. Here are some Bible verses (from NIV
) that encourage us to share our talents that will hopefully spark your interest:
1 Peter 4:10–11
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
We’re all different and great at something that is individual to us, so why not share it with others? Yet, sometimes pinpointing what you’re good at and how to share that talent is hard, though. Which is where the second part comes in: time. Time is a hot commodity in a busy world. We have jobs and classes; we must do laundry and make dinner; we have to sleep and get that errand done and make sure that email is sent and make sure to call our mothers and on and on and on. The list seems endless, and we all feel like we could use a little bit of help! That’s where time comes in.
Can you take five minutes to take out the trash for your parents or significant other just so they don’t have to? Can you be a listening ear when someone is frustrated? Can you help your coworker in the office stuff envelopes, so it takes half the time and you both have more effort to put in on the next big project? Being generous
your time is something that takes absolutely no talent. Everyone can do it. You’re not sharing your gifts; you’re not sharing your money when we talk about this type of generosity and giving. You’re simply sharing you. You are being the hands and feet of Jesus to show others that you care. Let’s look at two ways Jesus gave the gift of his time:
Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
John 13:12-17, NIV: “After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table. Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.”
Quality Time with His Disciples
Mark 4:10-11, NIV: “When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, ‘You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom—you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward a welcome awakening. These are people—Whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing, Whose ears are open but don’t understand a word, Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven.’”
Jesus washes feet! No talent needed there. Yet, by washing His Disciples’ feet, Jesus shows great respect and love for His followers. He wants us to see each other as equals and share our love among one another in ways that we all can do. And even in spending quality time with His Disciples we see that a simple act of being together and spending the time with one another can be seen as a generous gift.
The Wrap Up
When we talk about giving
, what we are really talking about is becoming more like Jesus. We’re not talking about swiping a debit card or dragging yourself to a volunteer event that you’re not passionate about or teaching a class where you’re not familiar with the subject matter. We’re talking about sharing of yourself and everything you have with your community of family and friends. The next time you hear someone talking about giving or generosity, catch your brain before it goes down the rabbit hole of money
. Yes, that could be the subject they’re talking about, but the words themselves don’t mean money. The concept of giving and generosity are the heart
behind the action.
Generally, we’d provide a link to our podcast here, but this month, we invite you to listen to our sermon series called “Three Things Every Church Needs.” In this series, Pastor Chris Eatough will be digging further into Talents, Treasures, and Time in terms of giving and generosity. Listen to our Podcasts on our Mobile app (available on the App Store
or Google Play
) or on Spotify
We also have some resources on RightNow Media you can watch for free! The Joy of Generosity
is a great series of testimony videos and Living Generously
provides a 5-week look at how to share your time, talents, and treasures. As always, please reach out and send us an email
if you want to talk, have questions, or want more info!