No one argues against generosity. It is a value that is reinforced even in the most secular corners of our society. News reports gushed that over $258 billion was given to charity in 2014, the high water mark of charitable donations in the U.S. That’s a huge amount of money. But that number represents a mere 2% of the US’s GDP. “Two percent of GDP is a huge sum, particularly in comparison to other countries,”[i] praised some, but virtue isn’t graded on a curve.
Two percent is not a number to be proud of as Americans. What about Christians? Unfortunately, we do little better, giving approximately 3% of our income to charity. And fewer than 5% of Christians tithe.[ii] Generosity isn’t graded on a curve.
Most disappointingly is the self-deception of Christians. 17% of Christians report tithing despite the actual number of 5%. Worse still, 10% of those who claimed they tithe actually gave less than $200 to charity.[iii]
The Second Reason to Give
Paul would have something to say about this. In this series we are exploring the reasons Paul says that we should be generous. The first reason was that giving is a grace; it is a gift offered to us by God.
Paul’s second reason is found in 2 Corinthians 8:8, Paul urges, “I say this [that you ought to participate in the grace of giving] not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine.”
Paul’s second reason for giving is that our giving proves that we love Jesus.
What About Legalism?
Wait a second, you might say. Isn’t this legalism? It isn’t. Just as the fruits of the Spirit don’t save us, but prove the authenticity of Christ’s work in us, so too does our generosity prove the authenticity of our love of Jesus.
Consider: you have a friend struggling with depression. You sit down on the couch after a long day of work, turn on Netflix, and your friend starts sending you frantic texts: “Help!” “Please call me.” “Please call. I’m in a dark place.” “Please call. I’m struggling with suicidal thoughts.” You silence your phone, and flip it over, and keep watching your show. Do you love your friend?
Consider: you effusively tell your wife you love her frequently, but you never arrive home when you say you will. You can’t remember the last time you vacuumed, dusted, or folded laundry. And your anger gets the best of you every couple of weeks, leading to curse-laced tirades directed at her. Do you love your wife?
Consider: you tell your infant you love them. You rock your infant to sleep. But your child screams themselves to sleep some nights from hunger because you sometimes cash your check and buy meth instead of formula. Do you love your child?
So it is with giving.
Do Your Finances Prove You’re a Christian?
Consider: you go to church, you serve as an usher, but you give intermittently and if you ever took time to crunch the numbers, you would find you give 2% of your income. Do you love Christ?
If we claim to be Christians and are stingy, we need to look in the mirror and ask if we really are Christians. Have we been changed by God’s generosity? Do we really believe the first reason: that generosity is a grace, an opportunity, given to us by our Savior?
Photo credit: Fabian Blank/Unsplash
For more on Paul’s Strange Reasons for Generosity series, see: