Recently after posting my reflections on Stewardship, Glenda challenged me to think about the relationship between Generosity and Stewardship.
This was an interesting thought, something to ponder. My initial thought was that we are called to be good stewards of all that God has given / entrusted us with. It is often played out as we give generously of our time, prayers and money to those in need.
What is Stewardship?
One of the definitions of stewardship is that it is “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something, especially the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”.
You can read more about my reflections on stewardship in my post Time, Money and Body Conundrum. In this post I present my stewardship views on:
- Our Time which is a valuable asset and we must make the most of the time allocated to us;
- Our Money which is about how we manage our finances and look after the poor;
- Looking after our Body and mind which is a Temple of God
In my post, I made the comment that “We have limited resources and God calls us to be good Stewards. Stewardship is management of what God has given or entrusted to us. Now, this may seem obvious, but it is key – A steward is someone who has been charged to look after something that does not belong to him.”
Being a good Steward of our resources is something that God wants for us and not from us.
What is Generosity?
One of the definitions of Generosity that I found says that “it is a quality that’s a lot like unselfishness. Someone showing generosity is happy to give time, money, food, or kindness to people in need”.
As I have pondered the question I would say, Generosity is an aspect of character. Generosity is the opposite of selfishness, self-centeredness, greed, and self-absorption. Generosity extends beyond just the use of money, although it most definitely includes that. It sounds less legalistic, less formal than stewardship. We often have to explain what stewardship means. Most people know generosity when they see it.
So what does it mean to be truly generous according to the Bible?
Firstly, It’s more about giving your all, than it is about giving so all can see. Let’s look at the Widow’s Offering story in the bible.
Mark 12:40-44 (NIV) – They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Luke 21:1-4 (NIV) – As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
One of the lessons that we learn from the story of the widow’s offering (Mark 12:40-44, Luke 21:1-4) is that generosity cannot be quantified. A large monetary donation may appear to others to be the most generous gift, and a much smaller contribution overlooked, but God sees the significance of a gift even when others don’t.
This poor old lady didn’t hesitate from giving all that she had to live on because she had faith in God’s promise to provide. If we’re trying to be more generous, it might help if we think less in terms of what we give (money, time…) and more in terms of what we’ll have to sacrifice as a result.
Secondly, It’s an act of the heart, not the head. In 2 Corinthians 9:7 we read, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”.
A lot of the time, generosity doesn’t make sense on the surface. Take again the example of the widow, it doesn’t make financial sense for her to give away more than she can afford, but she does anyway. As Christians we can give without restraint because we know that God will take care of us and reward us abundantly. But we’re not driven to give primarily because of an expectation to receive (2 Corinthians 9:6 – Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously) but because we have already received (John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life).
My Conclusion on the Relationship Between Generosity and Stewardship
Generosity and Stewardship are closely linked. Generosity is the fullest expression of the life of a good steward, one who has been given a gift, a gift that must be used wisely and for a purpose.
Generosity flows from an understanding that all we have, are, or will ever become, is not ours to possess. Generosity results in practically sharing with others what we’ve been given.
Generosity embraces a biblical understanding of stewardship. This means, first, that God is the owner of everything; second, what we have has been given to us by God and; third, that the resources we possess are assets to be invested in His Kingdom.
To be generous, we must understand what it means to be a steward, recognizing that what we have is not ours to own. It also means that Jesus is Lord: over our money, possessions, positions of authority and talents. You can’t be generous without an appropriate discipline of biblical stewardship, which in turn demands generosity.
Closing the loop, my initial thoughts were that we are called to be good stewards of all that God has given/entrusted us with. It is often played out as we give generously of our time and money to those in need.
Whilst true, I will now revise this as I think Stewardship is a disciplined response to what we have been entrusted with. Generosity is a heart response to the love we have received from God. It is focused out, on others (not self). Glenda is exploring Compassion and I will not be surprised to see a relationship between Compassion and Generosity.