Summary: Generosity is not something that happens overnight. It is a process. But, says this author, you must have a plan. Giving involves forethought, commitment, and action. How much should you give? Consider the stages in the cycle of generous living noted here.
Where do you stand on the question of giving? Is your giving hampered by your belief system or by the burden of unwanted financial problems? Do you find yourself wondering how much you could really afford to give? Are you frustrated when the needs you see or hear about exceed your vision, or your pocketbook? Generosity is not something that happens overnight. Instead, it’s a process.
The first stage in the cycle of generous living is preparation. You prepare your heart and your mind for giving by finding out what the Bible says about money and how to handle it. As you read your Bible, start asking some key questions: What does the passage say? What does it mean? What does it say to me, personally? How can I apply the lessons of Scripture in my daily life?
One of the central truths the Bible offers about money and possessions is that God owns everything. Once you recognize and accept the one fact that everything you have comes from and belongs to God, you will be in a much better position to hold your possessions with an open hand and experience true financial freedom.
The second stage in the cycle is problem solving. Difficult financial situations, such as an overwhelming amount of debt or an inability to get ahead, are often symptoms of underlying problems. These deeper issues may involve wrong thinking, bad attitudes, or poor decision making. If your finances seem to be out of control, you can ?turn the tide? by following four principles: Spend less than you earn, avoid debt, maintain liquidity (emergency cash reserves) and set long-term goals.
Putting things into perspective
The third stage in the generosity cycle is putting things into perspective. God is always at work around you, but how and when you recognize his handiwork depends on where your heart is. If you want to maximize your giving and make it effective, you must establish the relationships and contacts that will give you a vision for God’s work.
Have a plan
Finally, you must have a plan. Giving is more than just a one-dimensional decision; it involves forethought, commitment, and action. Most of us don’t plan to give; instead, we give haphazardly—such as when we hear a particularly poignant appeal or when tax time rolls around and we want a tax deduction. As a result, most of us don’t give anywhere close to the amount that we could afford and would honestly like to give.
How much should you give?
How generous do you want to be? To design your own giving plan, start by figuring out how much you currently give (check your own tax records or checkbook ledgers). Then, figure out where you want to go. How much do you want to give?
Deciding how much to give is not based on any set formula; instead, the choice is dependent on three levels: How much you should give, how much you could give, and how much you would give.
The ?should? level is the tithe. But in the New Testament (see 2 Cor 8:12, 9:6, 7), God asks us to give cheerfully and in proportion to how much we have received. For some of us, ten percent may be just the beginning. If we want to give proportionally, we may need to give much more than that.
The ?could? level pertains to sacrificial giving. It is the amount you could give—above and beyond your regular tithe—if you planned and were willing to give up something else. Any time you sacrifice something in order to give, be it money, possessions, or time, you are giving at the ?could give? level.
The Bible’s classic example of ?could give? level giving is the poor widow in Mark 12:43, 44. She put only two small coins into the temple treasury, but the gift represented all she had to live on, and she won the Lord’s praise for her generosity.
?Would give? level
When you give at the ?would give? level, you give something that cannot be seen. You give by faith. Faith giving happens when you pre-commit yourself to giving an unexpected surplus that God may provide. Unless you make this decision in advance, chances are good that when the time comes, you will not give it.
Increasing you comfort level
Are you comfortable with the amount you are giving? If you sense the Lord leading you to increase that amount, a few simple guidelines may help: First, give regularly (1 Cor 16:2 says to set aside your gift ?on the first day of every week?). Make your giving a priority, rather than an afterthought, when you pay your monthly bills. Finally, steadily increase the amount you give, a little bit at a time, and give yourself time to reach your giving goals.
Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt from Ron Blue’s book, ?Generous Living: Finding Contentment Through Giving.? Learn more about Christian Financial Professionals Network at: www.cfpn.org.