Written By Ching, Singapore
I am surrounded by giving people. Their tireless generosity is inspiring to me, and I want to emulate their giving spirit.
My mum and her siblings are some of the people who have showed me what it looks like to give often and consistently―they exchange gifts almost on a weekly basis! They remind me of Romans 12:10, which teaches us to love our spiritual siblings affectionately and to “outdo one another in showing honor”.
I also have friends who painstakingly craft handiworks with love, spending much time and effort in doing so. I know others who buy gifts consistently and make it a discipline to give often. There are also people working in the social sector who give so much that it hurts, even though they are sometimes repaid with scorn and complaints instead of gratitude.
I have also met churches, led to be generous by their leaders, that often give and bless their fellow church members and the immediate community that they love, serve, and reach out to. The beauty of generosity on a broader scale is magnificent. I have peers in Thailand that have shown me what hospitality looks like by receiving me with sacrificial love. I have mentors who have modeled for me long-term generosity over decades, and I have seen their long-suffering.
Yet despite having so many examples of generosity in my life, I have still found it difficult to live out this generous lifestyle. I learn all I want, but still end up never doing anything, nor wanting to. I wasn’t much of a giver; I was more of a taker.
In 2014, I decided to experiment with giving often.
Throughout that year, I found myself wavering between extremes. There were days when I did not want to give at all, and I became self-indulgent and “gave” to myself. Other times I gave out of selfish motives. What began as an experiment to try being more generous, revealed how selfish I was. I began to realize that generosity was not a natural human instinct. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we are simply not able to give freely. Through my selfishness, I saw how truly our hearts need Christ.
As I began to comprehend the amazing grace Christ gave us―even dying on the cross for us―I began to understand that we are called to be a part of His mission and, as His representatives here on earth, to exhibit His generosity. Generosity comes only from the Holy Spirit’s work within us, Christ’s life in us, and the love of God our Father overflowing in our lives. In short, generosity is a work of God in our lives.
In 2014, I slowly learned to be more generous. God helped me learn lessons from people around me. He also gave me a workplace with a very generous culture.
I began giving random presents to colleagues and friends. Then I started intentionally treating friends on their birthdays. Then I was modeling generosity, week in and week out, for those I shepherd. Soon I realized that my generosity needed a more intentional effort, and that planning was required.
I began budgeting. The principle of “Give, Save, Spend” helped me become more intentional in generosity. From small, spontaneous trinket-gifts, I moved on to slowly saving up and giving consistently so that others can be blessed over a longer period of time. A group of friends and I combined our resources so that we could help fund the school fees of one of our friends who was studying to go into full-time ministry.
Generosity has become a part of my lifestyle. I was giving consistently and intentionally. But I also realized that sometimes we give without love.
In 1 Corinthians 13:3, Paul says “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Even if we give away everything, but do it not out of Christ’s love, we gain nothing.
Serving in the helping profession, there have been moments where I failed to show empathy and genuine concern for the people I had been tasked to care for. Instead of giving out of love, I found myself giving because I wanted to be validated, which ultimately led to disappointment and guilt.
Our generosity needs to be an overflowing of Christ’s love for us, and also an intentional message about our Father’s love.
You might be thinking, “But I am no Mother Teresa,” “I am not rich,” or “I am not some noble helper”. But the people who have inspired me by their life of generosity were from all walks of life, from the very poor to the very rich. Being generous is a consistent intentional lifestyle.
A beggar I’ve met in a subway station once shared with me how every day of the week, a different Christian will befriend him or cook him dinner or speak to him. He also told me how some of them have even become his friends, and visit him as often as they can.
Christian generosity must be different from what everyone else does. We have the message of a very rich King who emptied himself and became poor, died, and rose again, so that we can be adopted into His family.
Get to know your daddy God intimately. Knowing our identity as a child of God, we can then reflect our Father’s generosity to all.