Which comes first: generosity or gratitude? Do you find it easier to be grateful or generous?
It’s probably like the chicken and egg debate. In this case, they both flow from love and that love produces abundant joy which results in generosity and gratitude.
I like to summarize it like this: Radical generosity in response to generous grace results in abundant gratitude and joy.
7 ways generosity produces gratitude
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul commends the Macedonian church for their rich generosity. His words help us see at least seven ways to become more intentionally generous and how that can reinforce gratitude in our lives.
#1: Affliction provides the perfect testing ground for generosity
The Macedonian church appears to be under extreme duress. Famine, persecution, and other hardships left them in a place where they rightfully could request assistance, but instead they gave “not only what they could afford, but far more” (v. 3). They received such blessings from the Gospel that they cheerfully sacrificed so others could receive what they had. Hardship couldn’t stop their generosity or stifle their gratitude muscles.
#2: Income doesn’t limit or enable generosity
Apparently income level isn’t a prerequisite for generosity. Though “very poor,” the Macedonians gave freely and even begged for opportunities to share.
According to modern studies, lower income Americans give more as a percent of income than their wealthier peers. This should come as no surprise when we remember how Jesus commended the widow who gave her last two coins (Mark 12:41-44).
I lived on a sugar plantation in coastal Kenya for a few months. The average worker earned about $30/month. My missionary “salary” of $200/month meant I was “rich.” Yet, these families constantly amazed me with their generosity as they gave their last chicken to honor me.
Ministries like Crown Ministries and Dave Ramsey’s Peace University teach us to train our children to be generous when they are young and they will be far more likely to be charitable when they earn more.
#3: Generosity is about more than finances
Paul first commended the Macedonians for giving themselves to the Lord. Then he mentioned how they gave beyond expectation. Our generosity starts with our time, our thoughts, our skills, and most importantly, our faith.
#4: Excel in gracious acts of giving
While giving should not be considered a competition, we can learn to excel in gracious giving. Notice what Paul tells the Corinthians, “Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving” (2 Cor. 8:7).
When you want to excel at something how do you go about it?
As a musician I started by taking lessons, practicing daily, joining ensembles where teachers and peers pushed me to get better, and slowly increasing the time spent and the difficulty levels. I venture to say similar steps can be applied to excelling at generosity. Here are some suggestions:
- Take lessons – You can read books, listen to podcasts, and study scriptures about generosity.
- Practice daily – By starting with small steps, you can push yourself every day. TIP: Be sure to chart your unbroken chain of practice.
- Join others – Discuss generosity in your small group or join groups to study and discuss what this might look like.
- Intentionally grow – Trainers like to say, “If you’re not growing, you’re losing.” Push yourself to find ways to be more generous every day.
#5: Respond to the generous grace of Jesus
Jesus became poor so you might inherit eternal riches (v. 9). He was generous first so our generosity flows out of gratitude for his undeserved mercy.
John exclaims, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 NIV).
If you’re like me, you need to be reminded daily of God’s grace, our adoption, our eternal rewards, and the fact that Jesus loves us and prays for us constantly. That’s why feasting daily on God’s word and talking to the Father are critical for our spiritual growth and effectiveness.
#6: Plan to be generous
Using the Macedonians as inspiration, Paul encourages the Corinthians to plan ahead to give. Not out of compulsion, but cheerfully.
Generosity requires intentionality. If you go to a charity event but don’t bring a checkbook or wallet, you won’t be able to give easily. Likewise, if you haven’t thought ahead about how much you might like to give, you’ll be less likely to act.
IDEA: What if you buy gift cards to hand out to people in need when you encounter the homeless?
#7: Watch the thankfulness flow
Paul promises that as we grow our ministry of giving it will result in greater thankfulness. Listen in, “So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.”
God loves to pour out abundant blessings on his children and especially when we express cheerful love to his world and his people. Malachi says, ““I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (Malachi 3:10 NLT).
Are you willing to test God?
Make a plan for how you can grow in generosity for the next pay period. What does that look like each day? Each week? Make an appointment with yourself to review this plan each time you get paid.
Lord, I praise you as the God of heaven and earth who owns all things. Thank you for your abundant and lavish love that you pour out upon me every day. I’m amazed and acknowledge I don’t deserve it. In response, I want to be more generous towards others just as you are generous toward me. Show me specific ways to be generous with my money, time, skills, and possessions. I pray you will bless me so I can bless others in increasing measure. In Jesus’ name, amen.