Today I want to look at the topic of financial generosity. I write this devotional for development workers, missionaries, and those involved in trying to help materially poor people. I write to all people involved in this work, whatever their country of origin, not only to North Americans. I want us to reflect together on our work and on our personal giving.
Since I work for World Renew, I write especially for my World Renew colleagues so that we can reflect and discuss this together. Let’s think deeply and challenge ourselves to be people who are sacrificial and generous in our giving.
Hear Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 8:1-7: And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.
In this section of 2 Corinthians, Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to give generously along with the other churches he had planted in order to help their fellow Christians in Jerusalem. There was a famine in Judea (see Acts 11:28). This offering would be a way to not only help in a desperate situation, but it would build the unity and fellowship of the early church, especially between Gentile Christians and Jewish Christians.
Paul wanted the Corinthians to follow the example of the Macedonians who were full of joy in Christ that made them eager to give. The Macedonians were overjoyed to have received God’s grace, to have been saved and forgiven through Jesus their Savior, and this made them want to respond with thanksgiving by giving generously to help others.
As Jesus became poor in order to save us and make us rich in salvation (8:9), so also the Macedonians were ready to give, even in their poverty, to follow Christ’s example. They begged and pleaded for the joy of taking part in helping others! This is what God’s grace does in our lives when we have been born again and have new hearts; it changes us to the point that we beg for opportunities to serve and sacrifice for others!
Today, as missionaries or development workers, most of us are 100% supported by the gifts of generous Christians in the USA, Canada, or other nations. They have sacrificed vehicles, vacations, and meals to care for materially poor people through us and our organizations. Out of their joy in Christ, people sacrifice their money to financially support missionaries who are church planting and teaching. Out of their joy in Christ, people sacrifice their money to give financially to support the work of organizations that try to help materially poor people. And they give because they believe in the ministry we are doing.
How about us, those working for organizations ourselves? Do we beg for the opportunity to give sacrificially to help materially poor people around the world? Many of us serve in our positions, not just as a job, but as a calling. We may serve with great commitment, even working long hours, to love churches and communities we work with. But let us reflect on this question: Do we give of our money? Please reflect deeply on these challenging questions:
- Have you been born again? Verse 5 says that the Macedonians gave themselves to the Lord. They trusted in Christ. They were born again because of the grace of God at work in their hearts (verse 1), and this is what transformed them to make them generous. Has your heart been made new? Do you have the joy of salvation in Christ which makes you a person of joyful generosity?
- Are you personally giving generously of your own money to support the community development programs of your organization? Why or why not? Specifically, I mean something like this: Do I, Anthony, support Timothy Leadership Training that I promote in my work, using money from my own salary? Do I, Anthony, financially support the programs of World Renew? Dig deep. Don’t answer too quickly.
- If we don’t give ourselves, is it because we don’t truly believe in the work our own organization is doing? Or is it because we think it is only those living in North America who should sacrifice to give money out of their salaries?
- What message is conveyed to local partner organizations and local partner churches, when we as development workers or missionaries personally do not give any money to support their work or the work of our own organization, but only try to help them to seek money from ministry partners in North America?
- What message is conveyed to a community when a national church-based development organization is receiving all of their money from North America, and not having even 1% of their budget coming from the generous giving of the local churches that own and oversee that development organization? Does this communicate that the local churches do not actually believe in or really care about the work their organization is doing? When funding comes completely from North America, organizations are not truly accountable to the community or local churches. They feel they cannot guide such organizations on what to do and what not to do because they believe it’s not their money (and not their projects). But if local communities and local churches are supplying 1% or 5% of the total funding for an organization, then suddenly they have a lot of power, investment, ownership, and a strong voice in guiding that organization’s programs. I’m excited that one of World Renew’s partners in Uganda is soon having a pastorate-wide “Development Week” in which the local churches will contribute financially to their pastorate’s development organization.
- If we were to personally contribute financially, from our own salaries, to the organizations that we work for, (even if your gift makes up only a very tiny fraction of your organization’s budget), how would this change the way we plan and budget and program for our organization’s work? How might this make us better stewards of donor money and combat the unfortunate mindset and practice of using money carelessly with such statements like - “let’s do xyz, it’s more expensive than what we would normally do ourselves…but after all, it’s not my money, it’s only donor money."
- If you are a missionary, do you financially support the work of other missionaries? Why or why not?
- Are we helping people in a way that creates/inspires more sacrificial generosity on the part of the people we are trying to help? Is your development organization (or missionary organization) helping in a way that creates/inspires more sacrificial generosity among partner staff, local churches, and local communities? Why or why not? Or does the way that we help create/inspire dependency and waiting on handouts?
- Make an action plan. What might you need to change about yourself, or your organization’s methods, programs, and structures so that the way you help creates/inspires generosity in others?
I have a long way to go in learning how to be sacrificially generous. But I want to share one testimony of how this can work.
My main work in Uganda is to facilitate Timothy Leadership Trainings. Often, when a group of church leaders graduates and they are excited to start new groups in which they will be the facilitators, they worry about how they will get the money to pay for their transport and other costs. They begin to discuss whether they can fundraise from foreign donors and I explain why that is probably not possible. I encourage them to raise money from their local churches to support new trainings in their area.
But then I will often take money from my pocket to support the TLT trainers in their work of starting new groups. When I have done this, the generosity is infectious and spontaneous, and other TLT trainers in the group immediately, within seconds, pull money out of their pockets to contribute to the expenses of starting new TLT groups. This happens without me even asking them to do so.
On a larger scale, are we able to do the same with larger projects and within our organizations? For World Renew staff, how might partner staff be inspired when we give generously of our own income to support the work of World Renew and the work of church partners? When we work in communities, how might community members be inspired to be good stewards of their resources and be generous givers, when they see us modeling generosity ourselves?
World Renew colleagues, I give you a challenge. This year, why not try and give a financial gift selected from the World Renew gift catalogue? See what happens to your attitude about giving and your attitude about your work after you make that gift. Try it as an experiment and give me feedback later.
Missionaries and development workers, let us keep our eyes on Christ. We have received so much from the Lord that it should fill us with joy and make us overflow in generosity to others! We have been reconciled to God through Christ, going from being enemies of God to children of God. We have received forgiveness of sins, the righteousness of Christ, relationship with the Lord of the universe, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the resurrection, everlasting life, and abundant life now as we enjoy being children of God and appreciating the gifts he gives us every day! How can we not respond with sacrificial generosity?
“Father, thank you for sending your son Jesus to live for us, die for us, and rise from the dead so that we can be saved and have life in you. Stir our hearts to generosity. Help us to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and what he has done for us, so that we respond in thanksgiving to give generously to materially poor people in our world today. Forgive us for selfishness. Forgive us for expecting only other people to give rather than we ourselves. Help us to believe in the ministries of our own organizations or to be willing to change the way that we do things. Lead us and guide us to know how to help in such a way that it won’t inspire dependency, but will instead inspire generosity. Show us how to change. Renew in us the joy of our salvation so that we will be begging for the opportunity to give and help our neighbors locally and around the world. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”