Our church year begins with Advent, but self-reflection and goal-setting are good for all of us and the turning of the calendar is as good a time as any to start.
This year, why not resolve to be more generous?
As we argue in Giving Up, generosity is at the heart of the gospel. To be a disciple of Jesus is to be a student of the generous life. Giving—in any form—shapes our hearts and testifies to the authenticity of Jesus’ mission.
But ‘being more generous’ is a big goal, and it’s in danger of becoming so lofty and grand that it turns fuzzy and undefined. How can we wrestle it down into some tangible plans that make sense for our specific context? I’ve tried to lump some ideas together here into several categories, but I encourage everyone to consider prayerfully how they might be more intentional in giving this year.
Usually, we direct our articles for church leaders, hoping to equip them for their work. Today, though, I’d like to talk about what all of us—as individuals and families—can do to build generous habits. Hopefully, this seeds your imagination and generates some ideas.
Why beat around the bush with this—Jesus didn’t. Your heart is wherever you’ve placed your treasure, so make some intentional plans to spend money in ways that draws your heart closer to Jesus.
For some of us, this might be as simple as finally setting up an auto-draft to give consistently to our churches. Perhaps you’ve been a member of your church for years but you’ve never really had a ‘giving plan’ and you never have a checkbook with you on Sundays (or ever) and so you end up tossing in a little here and a little there. Take an honest look at your finances and pray about what you should commit to your local church. Then take ten minutes and set it up—I’m sure your church has an easy way to do this.
Another easy money resolution is to cut one frivolous expense and devote it to a worthy cause. Maybe it’s one less dinner out per month. Maybe you could check out more books from the library instead of purchasing. It could be enough to provide a monthly pledge to a missionary or sponsor a child in need. You might be surprised how easy it is to give up, and how great it feels to bless someone else.
I’ve recently re-discovered the joy of supporting those who make beautiful things. Be generous in supporting writers, visual artists, and musicians who testify to the beauty of God—our world desperately needs their work. These sorts of purchases can seem frivolous, but consider the blessing you could provide to those who need patrons to continue creating.
Home Sweet Home
For fun, my wife and I started tallying up all the folks we hosted in our home last year. Though no one would describe us as ‘party people’, we have a cute little house that we love to fill with people. We stopped listing names when we got over a hundred.
This was a commitment we made as a family. We wanted to welcome people into our home. We’ve been able to conquer our fear of being judged and freely invite folks into our mess—the scattered toys, the take-out pizza, all of it.
Once you swallow the anxieties and insecurities that go along with it, you’ll get to the joy of sharing your table with others. And you’ll find it easier to share it generously with lots of people. Give a family with young children the night off from cooking. Give a college student the home-cooked meal they need. Have your boss over. Host the small group.
An organization called We Welcome Refugees recently posted a startling fact: 85% of immigrants to the U.S.A. have never been to an American’s home. This number shocks me. Americans can learn a lot from others about the practice of hospitality and how transformative it is for friends when you offer them your home.
Don’t turn your home into your own personal Batcave; let it be a refuge for everyone.
We can wall ourselves off within our homes, but we can also wall ourselves off in our community. The rise of social media allows us to self-select our communities in ways like never before; ironically, what claims to ‘connect’ us often allows us to divide ourselves into hyper-homogenous groups. When we aren’t surrounded by all different kinds of people, our empathy is diminished and our hearts grow hard.
If Jesus’ disciples are going to be famous for their generosity, it’s only natural that they should cultivate relationships with people outside their ‘bubbles.’
One great place to start would be investing in intergenerational relationships. Emily and I are so glad to be a part of a church that doesn’t toss us in the ‘Married-with-Young-Kids’ bucket and leave us to whine to each other about toddler tantrums. Instead, we’ve been blessed with rich relationships with empty-nesters, young singles, students, older parents. They have offered us perspective and pulled us out of our silo.
Speaking of bubbles, work this year to build relationships with people from other cultures or socioeconomic circumstances. Sure, there might be some awkwardness—there are language barriers or cultural differences. That’s the point: we move beyond misconceptions and superficialities and find friends and share fellowship.
When you and your family are surrounded by sameness, you become blind to the needs of others and assume that everyone is dealing with the same issues you are dealing with. But when you find yourself in community with those who are different, you see the unique needs they have that you are uniquely equipped to fill. And (here’s the really awesome part) you’ll find out how God has shaped them to care for you as well.