“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
Generosity is an essential Christian practice, acknowledging that life and everything in it is not our achievement, but a gift from God. Jesus shows us the depth of God’s love, modeling the life of gratitude “emptying himself” totally for the love of God and neighbor. In doing so, we discover that it not only becomes easier, it brings us deep joy to give.
Here are several simple ways to practice generosity and gratitude as a follower of Jesus, ranked from introductory to advanced disciplines.
The sermon on “Devoting Our Resources” can be found here.
1. Grace before Meals
Say grace before dinner, or the largest meal of the day to thank God and remind yourself that food and the money used to purchase it is a gift. Here’s a simple rhyming grace from Zimbabwe that’s easy to remember:
Thank you, God, for the rain and the sun and all the plants that grow. Thank you for our [my] daily food and friends who love us [me] so. Amen.
2. Keep a “Third Pocket” for Giving
Most of us pay rent and/or a mortgage along with bills and expenses out of one pocket, and disposable income out of another. To practice generosity, set aside a “third pocket” with a certain amount of money in cash each paycheque that you can simply give away, no strings attached. Whether it’s for street buskers, the homeless, or people canvassing for charity, we’re presented with so many opportunities to share God’s grace with others.
Grace comes without condition, so don’t worry about how the money will be spent—trust that God can use your small gifts for good in a person’s life.
3. Start Giving More Intentionally
Few of us are intentional about our giving, unless we have enough money for it to make a difference on our tax return! We may give here or there, but there’s little planning or thought put in to it. One easy way is finding one or two charities, one local, one global perhaps, that align with your hopes for the world, and contribute to the Christian vision of a healed and peaceable creation. Then, commit to a year’s worth of regular donations.
The easiest way to set aside money in this way is to sign up for regular pre-authorized giving by automatic deposit or credit card. The vast majority of charities offer this option. The best part is that you don’t have to think about it, and won’t be tempted to trade it in for coffee!
4. Practice (or Begin to Practice) Tithing
The word “tithe” simply means “tenth.” It refers to the historical Jewish/Christian practice of setting aside one-tenth of one’s resources for the purpose of one’s faith community. In one sense, it contributes to the flourishing of Christ’s community and service to the wider community through the church. On the other hand, it symbolizes the fact that everything in life we have belongs to God, setting the agenda for everything else we spend money on.
Believe it or not, there are people in this very faith community who practice this. But most of those who practice it have had years of practice to begin with! This is no easy discipline. But there’s always a place to start.
a. Start by calculating your personal income and setting aside a percentage that is doable for you right now. Then, make a commitment to gradually increase your giving by 1 or more percentage points per year until you meet your goal. It doesn’t matter if it takes 10 years. It’s not about the amount, but more about the practice of yielding more and more of your life to God’s leading.
b. As in the case of #4, sign up for regular automatic giving. Pick up a PAR (pre-authorized remittance) form at the welcome table to commit to automatic debit or credit card giving. You can also set up automatic giving online at stgeorgesunited.com/giving. In addition to commitment, it also saves us time by not having to count or deposit cheques!
5. Mix #3 and #4 with the “Modern Tithe”
In the second half of the twentieth century the government and non-profit organizations took over many services that the church had once provided, such as hospitals. This led to some church leaders to propose the “modern tithe.”
The modern tithe splits giving between secular charitable organizations (working towards 5%) and the faith community (working towards 5%), totaling 10% of one’s income. This is a way to practice generosity, and recognize God’s work in and out of the church by making a significant commitment to one’s local church and local community at the same time.
In the end, we don’t care so much about where you give your money away to than we do the fact that you give it away. There is a lot of need in the world, but there’s also a need for our own hearts to be softened for God’s purposes.