Generosity is one of the most significant movements within the evangelical community, but it is also a topic that is highly debated among Christian leaders. How we understand its role within the life of the believer—and better, within the life of the Christian communities in which we do life together will perhaps say more about our faith and our understanding of the gospel than any other single facet of our faith.
Let’s begin with a working definition of generosity. Generosity is at its core a lifestyle—a lifestyle in which we share all that we have, are, or will ever become as a demonstration of God’s love and a response to God’s grace. It is not enough for the church to talk about generosity, nor is it enough for individual Christians to simply commit to being generous. What makes generosity a real and powerful witness to God’s love is our actions. Generosity flows from an understanding that all we have, are, or will ever become is not ours to possess and it results in practically sharing what we’ve been given with others for the advancement of the kingdom and the glory of God.
Generosity embraces a Biblical understanding of stewardship. That is: (1) God is the owner of everything; (2) What we have has been given to us by God; (3) The resources we possess are assets to be invested in the Kingdom.
Before we can be generous, we must understand what it means to be a steward, recognizing that what we have is not ours to own and confessing that “Jesus is Lord” over our money, possessions, positions of authority and talents. You can’t be generous without an appropriate discipline of biblical stewardship, and biblical stewardship demands generosity. The free gift of the grace of God shapes our faith and leads to the conviction that all that we have—our time, talent, treasure, and testimony—is something that we have been given for a purpose. We cannot separate our acceptance of God’s grace from the practice of generosity. We are generous because God was first generous with us, freely giving his life for our sake. As followers of Christ, we seek to imitate the one who gave himself for us (1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2:14).
Stewardship is more than an obligation. It’s an opportunity—to witness to the reckless nature of God who gives the free gift of salvation by grace to all who will receive it. Generosity is the fullest expression of the life of a steward, one who has been given a gift, a gift that must be used wisely and for a purpose, bringing glory to God.
Excerpted from “Contagious Generosity” by Jim Sheppard & Chris Willard, Zondervan, 2012.