Cultivating the Sweet Gift of Generosity

When was the last time something moved you to tears—in a good way? Tender tears filled my eyes, of all times, at a family Easter gathering.

It had been a glorious day. Rainy skies had given way to sunshine just in time to welcome churchgoers. Our sanctuary rang with triumphant voices declaring in unison, “He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!” We gathered afterward at my daughter’s home to eat ham and mac and cheese and to watch my grandkids hunt for Easter eggs. (No judgment, please. These kids know full well that Easter is all about Jesus.)

While I distracted the kids, my husband and son-in-law hid 112 plastic eggs filled with Starburst® candies, coins, and a few dollar bills. We turned the children loose in the backyard, and within minutes each had found their allotted twenty-seven eggs. Collin (age 3) needed help, and the big kids were glad to oblige.

After the hunt was over they scattered to different corners of the living room to open their eggs and count their loot. Like most children, they love candy and Starburst is their favorite. It wasn’t long before the floor was strewn with wrappers and all four were munching happily. 

Later, I wandered into the backyard to enjoy the sunshine. I spotted seven-year-old Caroline and Collin at the foot of the stairs. 

“Close your eyes, Collin. No peeking.” She stroked his head once and flitted off with two colored eggs in her hands.

Collin squinched his eyes shut, happily chewing a pink Starburst.

“Okay,” Caroline declared in a voice that sounded a lot like her mama’s, “you can open your eyes now. Go find the eggs.” He scampered off. Soon he was back, eyes sparkling and grinning widely, with two eggs clutched in his sticky hands. He popped them open, shook out the candy, and handed them back to Caroline.

It wasn’t until I watched the scene repeat itself three or four times that I realized where Caroline was getting the candy to fill Collin’s eggs. She was taking it from her own Easter basket.

Her pile of Starburst was shrinking rapidly but she didn’t seem to mind. (And trust me, this wasn’t like sharing black jelly beans with your sibling because you think they taste gross. This girl loves Starburst.) Apparently, she loved seeing her little brother smile even more.

And that’s when tears filled my eyes.

Expressions of generosity often make me cry, especially those of sacrificial generosity. I suspect this is because generosity doesn’t come easily to me.

I was born selfish. Being the beloved firstborn who could do no wrong in my parents’ eyes didn’t help. For many years my obedient personality hid my deeply selfish and self-centered heart. I never would have shared my candy with my siblings. I’d have been the one trying to persuade them that black jelly beans really do taste better than pink ones, and wouldn’t they like to trade?

Besetting Sins

Each of us has our besetting sins and one of mine is selfishness. As a teenager I cared only about what I wanted. What was best for me. I obeyed my parents’ rules when it benefited me. I worked hard because it advanced my agenda. I willingly received and grudgingly gave—never sacrificially.

Then I became a Christian. But I was still selfish. Old habits die hard, and this aspect of my sinful nature stuck around. 

In my Bible reading so many verses mentioned giving:

  • “Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.” (Heb. 13:16).
  • “Honor the Lord with your possessions and with the first produce of your entire harvest” (Prov. 3:9).
  • “Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7).
  • “Give to everyone who asks you, and from someone who takes your things, don’t ask for them back” (Luke 6:30).

God’s Word gently pricked and instructed my heart. I learned my possessions didn’t belong to me but to God (1 Cor. 4:7). My job wasn’t to amass a fortune but to manage my resources in a way that honored Him and accomplished His purposes in the world. 

One year I kept a gratitude journal. Each day I listed three blessings I was thankful for. By the end of the year I had an overwhelming record of God’s consistent and bountiful goodness to me. Not only did God’s goodness cause me to grow more thankful, it also helped me become more generous. Generosity naturally flows out of a grateful heart.

As I watched others give generously I started asking God to help me see similar opportunities. I learned that giving isn’t only about money. I could also give generously of my time, talent, and prayers. I could bless others and honor God with my words, kind deeds, and even a smile.

Whenever I felt God nudging me to give, instead of automatically saying no, I’d pray about it. Sometimes He’d confirm His will through a passage I read in the Bible or input from my husband or other wise counselors. Once I was sure of God’s leading I learned to obey as quickly as possible. I remembered a wise mentor’s words, “To delay is to disobey.”

One night a decade or so into our marriage, my husband and I attended a banquet for a crisis pregnancy center. As we heard story after story of babies saved from abortion, my heart thrilled.

“David,” I said, “they’re doing a good work. We have to help them. How much can we give?”

My question shocked him. Usually he was the one encouraging me to give but now, wonder of wonders, I suggested it first.

His grin made me realize what had just happened. Tears sprang to my eyes. Thank you, Lord, for reproducing your generous heart in me. Help me learn to always say yes when You prompt me to give.

A Slow Process

I admit my transformation has been a slow process. Sinful tendencies don’t change overnight. Sometimes I relapse into my selfish ways, but now I’m quicker to recognize my sin, confess it, and make it right.

For some, like my husband and our little Caroline, giving comes easily. If you’re one of these people, God bless you. Keep giving as an example to the rest of us.

If you struggle to give, ask God to make your heart like His. Ask Him to remind you of the many ways He has blessed you with material and spiritual blessings. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude which will help you fight selfishness and entitlement. And give— even if you don’t feel like it. 

When I sense God’s prompting and obey, even when I don’t feel like it, sometimes I feel a sense of satisfaction because I know I made the right choice and obeyed God.

Other times I sense God’s pleasure. I can almost hear Him saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21).

Other times, like our sweet Caroline, I experience the sheer joy of sharing with someone and watching them smile. This joy is sweeter than a hundred Starbursts. 

“It is more blessed to give than to receive,” Jesus told His disciples (Acts 20:35), and it is true.

Well Done

The morning after Easter, before anyone else awakened, my son-in-law opened the front door to leave for work. There on the top step sat a note written in a childish scrawl. Only for Caroline. On the note lay seven Starburst candies.

“Who left this on my porch?” my daughter wrote on social media and posted a picture.

“God did,” I texted. “I don’t know who He used to deliver it, but I suspect it’s His way of telling Caroline, ‘Well done.’

Someday I hope to hear those words. How about you?

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