Are you really generous, or are you fooling yourself?

If you were in need — real need, the kind that requires help from a friend — how would you want your friend to respond to your need?

While you ruminate on that question, add this insight from scripture to your thinking …

“Give and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full — pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back,” Luke 6:38.

We often pay little attention to the fact that what we receive has much to do with how we give. We tend to be more like the ambitious farmer who was unhappy about the yield of his crops. The farmer heard of a highly recommended new seed corn so he bought some. The new seed produced a crop that was so abundant his astonished neighbors asked him to sell them a portion of the new seed. But the farmer, afraid he would lose a profitable competitive advantage, refused to share.

It’s too bad for the farmer that he was unwilling to sell some what blessed him because after the second year of using the new seed, he did not produce as good a crop, and when the third-year crop was still worse it dawned on him that his prize corn was being pollinated by the inferior grade corn from his neighbors’ fields. The farmer’s fate would have been different had he shared.

In reality, we often are not truly generous people, even though we don’t want to admit that about ourselves, and we certainly don’t want others to think that about us. In an attempt to get around the truth about our lack of or limited generosity, we play games with our own thinking.

You may have heard the story of two friends who met for dinner at a restaurant. Each ordered filet of sole, and after a few minutes the waiter returned with their orders. Two pieces of fish, a large and a small, were on the same platter. One of the men proceeded to serve his friend. Placing the small piece on a plate, he handed it across the table.

“Well, you certainly do have nerve!” exclaimed the friend.

“What’s troubling you?” asked the other.

“Look what you’ve done,” he answered. “You’ve given me the little piece and kept the big one for yourself.”

“How would you have done it?” the other man asked.

“Well,” replied his friend, “if I were serving, I would have given you the big piece.”

“Well,” responded the man, “I’ve got it, haven’t I?”

At this, they both laughed.

But it really isn’t funny when we pretend to be more generous than we are. In fact, God thinks such behavior is atrocious, and the consequences of attempting such pretense can be catastrophic. At least it was for Ananias and Sapphira. We read about this couple in Acts 5 …

“But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest,” Acts 5:1.

As the story goes, pretending to be more generous than they really were cost Ananias and Sapphira their lives — God struck them down, dead!

Instead of building a veneer of caring and generosity, God wants us to truly care and be generous. So much so, He often links our giving to what we receive.

In that case, let’s return to the original question: if you were in need — real need, the kind that requires help from a friend, how would you want your friend to respond to your need? Look closely at your answer and you might find the measure of how you should give. Now that looks much more like real generosity, doesn’t it?


P.S. For more insight about the topic of giving and generosity, let me point you to an outstanding little book that is very much worth buying, reading, and even sharing. It’s the book called “Plastic Donuts,” and you can find my original review of the book at this link