What is Biblical generosity? Over the years, the Lord has grown our depth of understanding in this powerful area of life. Generosity is about freedom and grace. It is about the freedom that comes from understanding, in the deepest parts of our souls, that God alone is our Provider. All that we have is a gift from God; and all that we have belongs to God. We are simply here to steward and deploy all that He has entrusted to us for His glory and our joy. Generosity encompasses the way we live our whole LIFE, and includes Labor, Influence, Finances, and Expertise.
The Lord has brought us through many stages in our own journey of generosity, and we are now privileged to spend a portion of our LIFE encouraging and supporting this journey in others. We offer this story of our journey as an example, rather than a prescription, of how generosity has transformed our lives.
Malachi 3:10 – Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. “Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
April and I didn’t start out as generous people – generosity was simply not part of our upbringing. We both grew up in stable families with parents who loved us and who shaped our core values of hard work and responsibility. They taught us that our goal in life – and our security – was all about financial independence and worldly success. We learned our lessons well, were both honor students in school, attended college, and began well-paying careers in software engineering. April became a Christian in high school, and I found Jesus in college. However, generosity was certainly not on our radar.
Things changed when April and I married in 1994. We had both been previously married, and carried significant debt. But, in spite of our difficult financial situation, we both knew in our hearts that if we truly loved God, it was only right that we obey His command to give a minimum of 10%. So, as soon as we began our new life together, we also began our new life of giving.
God was true to His Word and blessed us right from the start. Our financial situation quickly improved. We weren’t doing anything else differently. We were simply being obedient in our financial stewardship.
So the first lesson we learned along our journey was simple obedience—obey God, and He will be faithful to His promise. This, however, was only a small piece of the fullness of generosity He would soon reveal to us.
2 Corinthians 9:10-11 – In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous.
During the early years of our marriage, we worked for Microsoft, benefitting from the boom years of the 1990s and rapidly appreciating stock options. We began to give away significant funds and we found ourselves invited to occasional donor conferences. It was at one of these conferences that God chose to speak more directly to us than He had ever spoken before. We both felt a tangible message that He had a plan for us that would “shake up” our status quo and direct the next period of our lives. God didn’t reveal the details at that time, but started to slowly direct us out of Microsoft and into lives of service for Him.
Soon after, we attended a conference with Campus Crusade where we learned the acronym that has become central to our lives: generosity means not just our finances, but should involve our whole LIFE – labor, influence, finances, and expertise. We have to give more than just dollars. With this in mind, April left Microsoft in early 2000 and began full-time consulting work providing internet strategy for Christ-centered organizations like Campus Crusade, Family Life, and Antioch Bible Church. It was also an exciting time of becoming parents with the birth of our (now fifth grade) twins, Jack and Haley. God’s plan for our lives was coming together!
Our second lesson on our journey of generosity was that God is interested in more than our money. We will be “enriched in every way so that we can always be generous.” God wants our whole LIFE.
2 Corinthians 9:7,8 – For God loves a person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
In 2003, I left Microsoft to join April in full-time Christ-centered service. I spent a year enjoying a new perspective on my life, learning that significance does not come from my job. However, God had different plans for me. Despite my initial doubts about returning to the corporate world, God soon called me to create a new technology company with another Bear Creek parent. He gave me two caveats, however: build a company which emphasized integrity and family values (not always easy for a technology company) and plan on giving away half of anything that I made from my equity. The real epiphany for me was that, although I was “going back to work,” I was no longer deriving my personal significance from work. Instead, I was using my work to be significant for Christ.
I had hoped to return to full-time Kingdom service in about two years. It took seven. And even then, I had to step away without firm confirmation of the financial aspects of my decision to leave the company. This caused me a great deal of anxiety about our financial future. I had tried to be faithful to God’s direction—and had made a promise to be generous—but I was now dependent entirely on Him to make this plan work. Our trust in God’s timing and faithfulness was rewarded when an investor equity deal that created a generous financial return was finalized. I followed through on my promise to give away half, creating a giving “nest egg” which is now supporting the work of many organizations and individuals.
Our third lesson was about trust. God had given us clear direction and a desire for real generosity, so I needed to trade my natural anxiety and need for worldly security for His peace. As a result, He unlocked a new and even more exciting time of generosity in our lives.
Psalm 92:12-14 – The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green….
Since that time, we have focused on returning God’s faithfulness through giving our LIFE to more than a dozen Christ-centered ministries and organizations. Each day looks very different as we do our best to obey, live generously, and completely trust God for direction.
The final lesson on our journey so far has been the truly transformative power of generosity. The definition of transformational is a transitive verb to change somebody or something completely, especially improving their usefulness. Our mission is now focused on improving our usefulness to God. Our lives have been radically changed from being self-centered individuals to experiencing the amazing joy and fulfillment that comes from generous living.