When I was serving as a local church Pastor, I often used the words giving and generous as though they were synonyms. In fact, I would often thank people for their generosity when I should have thanked them for their giving. Here’s what I’ve since decided about generosity.
Suppose I was to ask you for $20, and you reached into your wallet or purse and handed me a $20 bill. That gift of $20 probably won’t change the trajectory of your life in any meaningful way. You’ll probably not miss a meal. You’ll still make your utilities payment. Your life will carry forward without much of a ripple. Did you give me a gift? Yes. Was it generous? No.
Suppose I asked you for $20,000. Even if you have $20,000, you would probably need to stop and think about it. I believe we cross the line from giving to generosity when we make a “stop and think about it” gift.
Christians will generally concede that the most generous gift anyone has ever made was Jesus’ death on the cross. But even that was a “stop and think about it” gift. Do you recall what Jesus did the night before the cross? He went to an Old Testament potluck, then took his disciples to the Garden to pray. He went a little further and prayed, “Father, if it is possible, please let this cup pass from me.” He prayed that prayer three times before coming to the resolution, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus death on the cross was generous because it was a “stop and think about it” gift.
There’s nothing wrong with being a giver. But let’s not confuse giving with generosity. You can make a gift without being generous. But you can’t be generous without making a gift that causes you to pause and think.