When my youngest was six, we redecorated her room. The fresh look called for much purging, so I decided to use the opportunity to teach a little bit about generosity. I told my daughter to fill a bag with toys then we’d deliver the items to a family in need.
After about thirty minutes, she made her way downstairs and set the very lightweight bag in my lap. “Here, mom.” Inside were exactly three items: a barbie doll with only one leg, a hair bow that no longer had the clip, and a rubber band.
A rubber band, for heaven’s sake.
I was struck by several outrageous things in that instant, including the fact that my daughter was excited she found a rubber band under her bed so she could “add to the collection for the poor,” but what struck me even more was my obvious lack of teaching on what it means to be generous with others.
In the Bible Jesus talks a significant amount about money, so if the subject is important to Jesus, then it needs to be important to us as believers. With the impending end-of-year gifts that many good ministries and institutions will be asking for, it’s important to understand what the Bible says about giving and consider how we can teach our kids to be generous with what God has given us.
Why We Give
There are many who have the attitude that giving, even to their local churches, is not necessary. The tendency is to think, “We have just enough; after all, our churches and ministries will get plenty from those who are wealthier.”
The problem is that the Bible doesn’t specify one particular group that should be giving. In fact, in 2 Corinthians 8, Paul tells about the incredible generosity of the churches in Macedonia who gave even in the midst of poverty and affliction:
“We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints…”
This church sought to give not only according to their means, but they begged to give beyond their means! It’s truly a remarkable passage that exemplifies what it looks like to overflow in generosity, and this kind of attitude is attainable when we begin to recognize the grace of God that he abundantly gives to us every single day.
Grace is the answer to why we should have generous hearts (2 Corinthians 8:9). God has given believers far more than we could ever ask or imagine in giving us Jesus, and He regularly pours out His power and riches even when we don’t deserve it. The grace of God is the very nature of God, and it’s His grace that should inform our giving; we give because we are image bearers of a generous and gracious God.
How We Give
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Teaching our kids the importance of being generous starts with our own hearts as parents. Are you able to give with a cheerful heart because of what God has given you, or do you tend to grumble when the Lord is compelling you to give? Do you trust God in your giving, or do you give only that which you don’t need (i.e., broken Barbie dolls and rubber bands)? And do you pray before you give? We need the power of the Holy Spirit to be cheerful givers. Our natural instinct is to merely hand over the proverbial rubber bands, but God compels our heart, conforms it to His will, and gives us gladness in trusting him with our material things. He will do this if we ask.
Where We Give
The Bible makes clear that we should be financially supportive of our local churches. Whether we understand this to be through the means first prescribed in the Old Testament tithe (Deuteronomy 26) or through freewill offerings (2 Corinthians 8-9), the point is that believers should be eager to generously bless their church from the resources the Lord has entrusted to them. This is, in fact, one of the primary ways that God intended for His church to thrive. Trust Him in doing what He has commanded, and encourage your children to do the same as soon as they begin earning money. This is not always easy for young people – it’s not easy for us! But teaching by example is one of the best ways to encourage this important habit.
And in 2 Corinthians 8, Paul is going about the business of delivering a special one-time offering to the church of Jerusalem. These kinds of offerings are what we give above our regular tithes, and year-end gifts are a perfect opportunity to give generously to good, God-honoring ministries and organizations. And while it’s important to encourage our kids to be generous with their own resources, it’s equally important that we aren’t teaching them to give reluctantly or under compulsion, so as parents, we need to show them what giving does for those in need. Perhaps take them to a shelter and serve a meal to other adults and children who live with much less than they do. And then tell them what happens when they give to various ministries. When they give to their church, for example, take time to tell them the ways in which their money is used.
Our local church collected money recently for another church in need. I sat next to my youngest and watched as she pulled out a zip lock bag with coins and dollar bills, nearly all the money she had. My heart melted as I watched her excitement to give what she could, and I was reminded in those moments how beautiful it looks to have a generous heart. May we all have attitudes of bounteousness this season, giving abundantly and cheerfully knowing all that our faithful Savior has given to us.