Big-Hearted Generosity: We prioritize giving to God’s work over protecting ourselves.

One of the Apostle Paul’s chief roles in his missionary journeys was to gather resources. Multiple times throughout his letters to the early churches, he talks about an offering he was either getting ready to collect or had just collected.

What is fascinating about these moments is that Paul didn’t merely collect funds for a particular ministry project or ministry venture; rather, he almost always took these opportunities to teach these early believers about their generosity as they gave. In fact, this is why we find many of our most poignant teachings on giving from the Apostle Paul himself.

Paul always took time to teach people about the giving they were about to do or about the giving they had just done. It is a powerful model for the way the Church should interact with giving in our local church context today; Paul was consistently reiterating that the heart you are giving from is just as important — if not more important — than the project or effort you are giving to.

Often in our church life today, we are tempted as givers to demand that we see an “ROI” (return on investment) in our giving. Most non-profits and charities — even faith-based ones — show those ROIs to us as we give.

Our chief reason for giving to the local church should be as a reflection of our increasing love for God and our increasing understanding of what He did for us through the gospel.

That makes sense because their chief role is mission advancement. They are called to advance the specific mission to which they have been called — whether that mission is alleviating poverty in Jesus’ name or feeding people in the city of Orlando or building water wells in Kenya. We should absolutely give to these causes as Christ followers, because these agencies and ministries are doing incredible things, many of them in the name of the Lord.

But the local church is different. The local church’s chief role is discipleship. It is not Charity Water’s role nor Compassion International’s role to disciple me as a giver. That will happen now and then, but it’s not the role of those ministries. Their role is to provide water to those who do not have it or to alleviate poverty through providing meals and education and spiritual growth for children, and they even do it in Jesus’ name.

But they aren’t called to disciple me as a giver. The local church IS called to do that, however. The local church IS called to make disciples — which includes making disciples in generosity when it comes to the topic of giving.

So we see now what Paul was doing, and why it was so vital that he teach these believers how and why to give. Paul was doing ministry in and for the local church. He wasn’t just receiving funds from those early believers; he was discipling them in generosity.

He never promised an ROI for their giving, and neither does God. God promises to provide for us, though He doesn’t promise in what form that will be. So we aren’t promised a return on our investment in the same way a mission organization can show us how many water wells we purchased or how many children we sponsor.

No, our giving to the local church is much deeper than that. Our chief reason for giving to the local church should be as a reflection of our increasing love for God and our increasing understanding of what He did for us through the gospel. Our big-hearted generosity should be a declaration of our selflessness  — that we care more about God and the things of God than the self-driven things that tempt us in this world.

If I could “buy” a certain number of baptisms with my giving, I absolutely would. But giving to the local church doesn’t work like that. I can’t buy baptisms in the same way I can “buy” water wells or “buy” child sponsorships.

It’s much bigger than that. By giving to the local church, there is a deep connection with God as I give because it’s worship. It is a declaration of who Christ is in my life and the priority He has in my heart.

Yes, it does practically fuel more ministry to happen, and there’s no doubt about that. By the grace of God, He often allows us to see the fruit of our giving. But it’s still not because we gave that this person or that person was baptized. That person was baptized because someone led them to the Lord. We didn’t buy that, but God is graciously allowing us to participate in the joy of it. What a great gift that is!(2 Corinthians 9:15)

Paul shares in his second letter to the early church at Corinth that when we give, accompanied by our confession of the gospel, it actually overflows in expressions of thanks to God – and other people see God because of it. (2 Corinthians 9:12-14, paraphrased).

Paul is saying here that generosity doesn’t just fund the mission. It actually is the mission. Let that soak in a minute. Paul is emphasizing here that the WHY behind our giving is so important. It’s not just giving for philanthropy’s sake or giving for obligation’s sake. It is giving born out of our confession of the gospel. And I don’t know about you, but the more I fall in love with Jesus and understand what He did for me, the greater that compels me to give and to share with others my WHY.

So why do you give?  Do you give out of a deep love for Jesus?  Do you give out of a deep conviction for the gospel’s transformative power in your life?  Do you give out of obligation or ritual or routine?

The truth is that many of us give for multiple reasons if we are truly honest. While our love for Christ no doubt is very present in our lives, it may or may not drive how or why we give. It also may not drive how much. If you’re like me, it is a constant question of challenge in my life to ask myself if the “why” behind my giving is truly gospel-driven in such a way that the Lord might use it to “overflow in many expressions of thanks to God.”

This doesn’t mean that we go around touting our giving to others; rather, it means that we live and give our lives in such a way that would be worthy of the gospel of Christ. You just never know when your life of giving might demonstrate to someone else the compelling love of God.

God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8

Article by Julie Bullock, Generosity Coach and Friend of Grace Church