Planting Generosity in the hearts of our children

I want to talk a little about cultivating an attitude of generosity in our families. Our culture is saturated with a constant desire for the latest and greatest thing that will supposedly bring us real joy. We stand in line for the newest devices or video games when there is nothing wrong with what we have. The truth is that if we aren’t careful, our clamoring for the newest thing will prevent us from participating in the a practice that brings real joy … generosity. When we are generous, we are imitating the nature of Jesus who generously gave His life so we could have our sins forgiven and be rescued from slavery to sin. Generosity has the power to change a life and set that life on a new trajectory. Generosity has the power to release us from selfishness. Generosity has the power to change groups of people and whole communities. All of these possibilities lie hidden within you and me and our children! Let’s determine to become intentional in releasing generosity to see what God can do through it!
Proverbs 11:24&25 say: “One man gives freely, yet gains even more;another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed”.
I recently read this story. There was once a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won first prize. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned the farmer’s strategy for growing winning corn. What was it? Simply this: the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.
“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked.
“Why” said the farmer, “don’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.”
The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn.
The first step in developing a lifestyle of generosity is
to realize that everyone of us has something to offer. We tend to dismiss the idea of generosity as something that belongs to people who have more to offer. Generosity is not just about money. Generosity can include talent and ability. I have known people who gave great gifts by offering their skills or talents to help someone or an organization. Generosity can involve the giving of help to someone who is overwhelmed and in great need of help. Generosity can include helping with our possessions like giving someone a ride with our car. Generosity is not just for the rich and privileged. Generosity is something anyone can get in on. We need to decide to become people of generosity and then look for opportunities to touch the lives of others in a positive way.
Opportunities to express generosity are all around us. The key to developing a generous heart is to learn to pay attention to the people around us. There is the elderly neighbor who could use a helping hand in the yard. There is the the person who needs a ride to the grocery store. There is the person in the store struggling to load up their purchase. There is always the single parent who could use a little relief. We are surrounded by people who are discouraged and facing huge challenges. A simple gesture of generosity can be like a breath of fresh air in their lives. There is no joy greater than being able to supply the need of someone who is struggling!
Of course, we also have to choose to make room in our busy schedules to reach out to others. Many times, we see opportunities to help others, but pass them by because we are too busy and we convince ourselves that we can’t afford to spend the time on helping them.
In Luke 10, Jesus told a great story to help us understand the importance of generosity. He told of a man who had been robbed, beaten, and left for dead by the road. A priest passed by, saw the man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and hurried away. Soon, a Levite passed by. A Levite would have represented another very religious person who served at the temple and would have been admired in their culture. He saw the man, crossed the road, and also hurried away leaving the man suffering on the side of the road. Then, a Samaritan passed by. The samaritan represents a person in society who is not thought of highly. In fact, the Samaritan is someone that every good person would look down on and expect nothing good from. It actually went further than that. The Samaritans were people who were regarded as evil, worthless, and of no value. The prejudice against the Samaritans was intense. Yet, in Jesus story, it is the Samaritan who stopped his day, tended to the man’s wounds, carried him to an Inn, paid for his care, and promised to come back to check on him and pay any outstanding balance for his care. Jesus pointed out that while the priest and Levite were well respected men who spent their lives serving at the temple, it was the Samaritan who was expressing the heart of God by expressing generosity to the man in need.
There are many today who see people in need all around and demand that the government do something to help them. This is not the job of governments. Many in the church see the needs and call out for the church to do something. That is good and right, but the church is made up of individuals. I have found that the chief limitation of the church is a lack of available volunteers and donors.The job of generosity and helping those in need is the job of you and me. Notice the people around you…God might want to touch them through you!
Generosity releases hidden potential. Most of us live under the assumption that we are doing in life all we can. We evaluate our job, our income, our bills, our abilities, and our available time and we convince ourselves that we are doing all we can. We limit ourselves. Opportunities for generosity arise and we tell ourselves that “I can’t do anything” and then we begin to call for others to step up. But, what if there IS something more we can do?. Well, choosing to look for a way to step up opens the door for God to reveal hidden treasure in our lives.
Some years ago, I discovered this truth. I was pastoring a growing church and we had just built a new worship facility to accommodate the growing congregation. As a church, we had decided before construction began that we did not want the burden of paying for the project to hinder our ministry outreach, so people had made financial commitments to assure that the project could be paid for. After we moved in, some began to struggle with their pledges. People began to come to me apologizing that they could not afford to meet their commitment as they had expected. The Holy Spirit began to reveal this truth about generosity to me so I decided to challenge everyone with the principle of the parable of the Talents.
So, after a couple of weeks of explanation, one Sunday I invited anyone who wanted to come forward and receive $5 from the church. The challenge was to take the $5 and ask God to give them an idea of how to invest it over the next 4 weeks and bring back an increase for the Kingdom. Seems crazy… after all, what can you buy with $5? I told them that if they added money to it to repay themselves from the increase. Now I was feeling the pressure, as the pastor, I had to participate and set a good example. I prayed about it and God gave me an idea. I approached a local businessman I knew and he was happy to allow me to make and sell discount coupons for car services and give me a cut of the sale. I made the coupons on my computer for less than $5. I went out into the community and sold them. I didn’t sell them to members of our church because I didn’t want to collect money that might have been given in an offering anyway. I wanted it to be a true increase from people who had no connection to our church. So, when it was all finished I had spent less than $5 on paper and had invested less than 12 hours over a 4 week period. I could hardly believe what had happened when I brought forward $600 increase.
The $600 offering was great, but the bigger benefits were hearing from God, working His plan and seeing Him do something I could not do, and realizing that with God I can accomplish far more than I ever dreamed. Generosity … a desire to give beyond my ability revealed potential that I never knew was there. So, I would encourage you to stop limiting yourself and open your heart to do more for others and for the Kingdom of God. Ask God to develop a generous heart in you and and your family!
It is important for us to develop a generous heart and pass that on to our children. Fallen human nature is consumed with getting and keeping as much as possible for me and mine. This tendency comes from a heart that is fearful and self absorbed. However, generosity comes from an open heart that is full of faith and unselfish. Generosity has the power to positively impact the lives of others. Generosity has a special joy that it unleashes in the heart of the giver. Generosity unlocks hidden potential in our hearts. Anyone, regardless of their bank account, can participate in generosity because we can generously give of our talent, ability, and time. When it comes to generously giving money, it’s not the dollar amount that defines generosity, it’s the sacrifice.
I hope by now that you are realizing that generosity is a great quality to add to your family dynamic. But, let me give you another reason. In Acts 10, we learn about a man named Cornelius, a Roman soldier. He and his family were God-fearing people who gave generously to those in need and he was a man of prayer. One day an angel visited him with a message, “ Your gifts to the poor and your prayers have formed a memorial before God.” Peter is told to visit Cornelius and during that visit, Cornelius and his family are born again into faith in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. This is a major event. This is the moment when the door is officially opened for non-jews to have open acceptance into the Kingdom of Heaven through faith in Christ!
We know that God was always planning to open that door. Isn’t it interesting that God picked Cornelius to open the door?! Why? Because of his generous gifts to those in need and because he was a man of prayer. WOW! So, generosity is noticed by God. Every time we help someone in need…God Himself takes note. He takes note because when we are generous we reflect His generous nature. He notices because when we are generous, He sees where he can direct people in need to receive help. When we are generous, God is able to touch others through us. When we are generous, we are defying the way of the world that says “all for me and none for thee”. When we are generous, we are sharing a little of Heaven on Earth!
If generosity pleases God so much, isn’t that reason enough for us to make it a major pursuit in our lives to help those in need? Our children need to know that there is a higher way to live than in the constant pursuit of the newest devices, the latest big screen tv, and the latest cool car. Do we really need to have so many clothes that we seldom wear anything twice? How many pairs of shoes do we really need? There is nothing wrong with any of those things, but if that’s what we spend our time and talent to obtain, then we have spent our lives on things that have no eternal value. I want to encourage you to pursue higher things in life. A heart of generosity rises like a memorial in the presence of God!
Matthew 6:33- seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you as well.
This week, we have been thinking about generosity. Specifically, we have been thinking about the importance of becoming intentional about making generosity a part of the lifestyle of our family. We talked about the fact that generosity is for everyone, not just the rich. Generosity reveals hidden potential within us. Generosity draws us closer to God. Generosity notices others and values them enough to reach out with a helping hand.
Today, I want to share another benefit of being generous. Generosity opens doors of opportunity to us. There was a man who lived in the early 1900’s named RG Le Tourneau. He was a man with a sixth grade education. However, he had a love of earth moving and a gift for machinery. He was a devout follower of Christ who was generous in his giving to ministry projects through his church. He was an earth moving contractor who invented machines to make his jobs more profitable. Eventually, his inventing and manufacturing endeavors overshadowed and replaced his contracting business. In fact, he became the father of modern earth moving equipment with over 300 patents to his credit. He said that it was his desire to be able to give more to help missions projects that fueled his desire to expand his business ventures. He and his wife gave away 90% of their income and lived modestly on 10%. He credits God with giving him ideas for inventions. He fully believed that God built his business because God knew that he would generously give most of the money to Kingdom needs. In his lifetime, LeTourneau gave over $10 million dollars to ministry needs. His is an inspiring story, I hope you will look him up and read more.
We may not ever practice generosity on this scale. we may not have a life that is this inspiring or that touches this many people. But, the fact remains, when we develop an intentional habit of generosity God opens doors of opportunity for us. Only God knows what He might do in our lives if only we will loosen the grip on our time, talent, and treasure to help those in need around us!
Many people today complain that life is boring and has little meaning. A life driven by a generous heart is filled with adventure and fulfillment.
I need to close out with a word of warning. Choosing to be generous is not a means to become rich or famous. This motive contradicts the very nature of a generous heart. The reason to choose to develop a generous heart is to show your love for God. Children love their parents and seek to show that by being like their parents. Our Father is generous and we can show our love for Him by being like Him!
So, it’s time to break out of the self serving rut of the world and lead your family into the joy of Generosity!
I would encourage you to help your children learn to notice the people around them who have a need and teach them to stop and offer a helping hand or share something with them.
Before I go, I want to recommend I Still Do, A Guide for the Marriage Journey. This marriage journal was written to help strengthen your marriage with biblical principles and practical suggestions. Order yours today at nolareallife.org or at I Still Do on Facebook.

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