The Wisdom of Generosity

This week I will be teaching a special “Senior Seminar” at the school where my wife teaches on the “Biblical Principles of Personal Finance.” I’m not a financial guru but I am a pastor who likes Dave Ramsey, which apparently is enough to qualify me for this particular seminar. I’ve taught the class a few years in a row now and one of the key ideas I try to get across is that it is wise to be generous.

I’ve always been taught that it is good to be generous and it is kind to be generous but it wasn’t until recently that I discovered that it is wise to be generous. When I think of “wise” things to do with your money I think about planning, budgeting, saving for a rainy day, being thrifty, etc. I usually don’t add giving to the poor to that list.

The realization that it is wise to be generous came as I was looking up verses on what the Bible says about how we should use our money. I soon discovered that many of the verses on the topic of generosity are in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a book of wisdom.

Consider a few of the following verses from Proverbs:

“One person gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” (11:24)

“A generous person will prosper;
whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (11:25)

“The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.” (22:9)

“Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.” (28:27)

But the voice of wisdom and generosity doesn’t stop in the book of Proverbs.

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Furthermore, Jesus declares the opposite of generosity, hoarding, to be exceedingly foolish as seen in the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21.

How is it Wise to be Generous?

But how exactly is being generous wise? Here are a few reasons.

First, it is wise to be obedient to God. The fact that it is kind and good to be generous means it’s also wise. Biblical wisdom starts with obedience to God.

Second, it is wise to value the right things. A person who thinks something worthless is valuable is considered a fool. Those who are able to recognize the true worth of something are wise. Generosity is a way we value the right things. As 1 Timothy exhorts us, “In this way [generosity] they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Third, it is wise to take the long view. The wise person can look beyond her immediate circumstances and see how her decisions today have a long term impact on the future. Saving is wise for this exact reason – you defer gratification now for the long-term benefit. Generosity works in about the same way, only it’s not just a long-term perspective you’re after, but an eternal perspective.

For more on that, check out this excellent video by Francis Chan. His analogy of the rope as many implications, but I think one of the main ones is its implication for how we use our money in this life.

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