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We believe God has called us to partner with his kingdom work in the world by blessing the people around us in a variety of ways. This is the second blog in a 3-part series called Living a Generous Life. Discover the life-changing power of giving from a generous heart.

If you missed the last blog, you can click HERE to read Part 1 | Awareness. We highlighted 7 different ways in which we can be generous. As we said in our last blog, giving from a generous heart is about far more than your money.

We can be generous with our thoughts, words, money, influence, time, attention, and belongings.

Generosity is about taking your entire life—everything you are and everything you own—and using it to bless the people around you.

Last time we talked about the first step on the pathway to a generous life: awareness. I pray the Holy Spirit has helped you keep your antenna up, and has shown you opportunities to be generous to the people around you.

This time, we are going to talk about the second step on our path towards a generous life.

We’re going to talk about activating our generosity.

Truly Giving from a Generous Heart

The desire to be generous is important, but desire alone does not make us generous. If we want to live a generous life, then we have to get active.

As I say that, that reminds me of the many times I have set goals to become physically healthy. When I look in the mirror and see some things I want to change, that is a great first step.

But if all I ever do is look in the mirror and I never change the way I eat or go to the gym, then I’m not going to become a healthy person. In order to drop the extra pounds (especially after quarantine), I have to move from desire to action.

I have to track my calorie intake and set aside time for going to the gym. I have make an intentional effort to activate the desire.

The same thing is true with generosity. If we want to become generous people, then we have to do generous things, and we have to do them on purpose.

So, here’s my question for you: What are you doing to be generous? 

What are you going to do today that blesses another person?

Once we move from a desire to be generous to actually giving from a generous heart, something amazing happens. We start to see opportunities everywhere. You might notice this same phenomenon taking place the last time you purchased a new vehicle.

Isn’t it interesting that as soon as we purchase a new car, it seems like everyone else on the road is driving the same car? In psychology, this is known as the “Baader-Meinhof phenomenon” or “frequency illusion.”

And no, everyone didn’t go buy the same car you have, it’s your brain now adjusting to notice things that are important to you. All of those cars were on the road before, you just didn’t notice them until you took the step of purchasing the car. The same thing is true with generosity.

Once we start living generously, our brains will start searching for more opportunities. How cool is that?! When we pray, the Holy Spirit helps us. When we activate our generosity, our brain starts helping us as well!

Generous people do generous things. Why is it then that so many of us desire to be generous, but so few of us are actually living out that generosity in the world?

Jesus Shows Us What Giving from a Generous Heart Looks Like

There’s a story Matthew 14 that helps us understand the principle of giving from a generous heart. Jesus helps us answer this question.

Let’s look at Matthew 14:15-21:

“As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’

“Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’

“‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,’ they answered.

“‘Bring them here to me,’ he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”

I want to set the scene and give you some context for what’s happening in this story. Jesus is surrounded by thousands of people who are gathered together, eager to see him. 

He is teaching and healing sick people. The Bible tells us there were 5,000 men present, but this doesn’t include women and children, which means the number was probably closer to 15,000. That’s a big crowd of people!

The People Were Faced with a Problem

As it starts to get late in the day, the disciples come to Jesus with a problem. They notice it’s starting to get dark, and the people haven’t eaten dinner. The disciples are concerned that if the people aren’t sent home to get dinner, they will be forced to travel at night.

Why is that significant?

Traveling at night in the ancient world was very dangerous. So when the disciples come to Jesus, they aren’t complaining or being petty. Quite the opposite in fact. They identified a legitimate need impacting a large group of people.

Man spending his free time working at a soup kitchen helping the poor.

Now we would expect Jesus at this point to say something like, “You know what? You’re right. Let’s send them home to make sure that they get what they need.” Or maybe the disciples were thinking Jesus would do some sort of miracle to make sure everyone had the food they needed and got home safely.

When you see a problem or identify a need, you bring it to Jesus. You pray about it. This is what makes Jesus’ response so confusing. Listen to what he says:

            Verse 16 says, “You give them something to eat.”

When the disciples come to Jesus with a problem, Jesus responds by telling them to solve it. He doesn’t perform a miracle; he doesn’t give them a solution. Instead, he puts the responsibility back on the disciples. And the disciples respond exactly how we would probably respond in the same situation:

            Verse 17, “We only have five loaves of bread and two fish.”

When Jesus puts the responsibility back on the disciples, their first response is to make sure he understands their limitations. They are talking about loaves and fish in this story, but really what they’re saying is, “We don’t have enough.”

Let me ask you, have you ever felt this way?

Do You Feel Like You Don’t Have Enough to Be Generous?

You see a problem in the world, you see a need in your neighborhood, you identify an opportunity to be generous, and what is the first thought that comes into your mind? I don’t have enough! I don’t have enough time, I don’t have enough money, I don’t have enough influence.

We identify opportunities to be generous, and then we allow our limitations to keep us from taking action. This is the answer to the question I asked earlier. Why does our desire to be generous not translate into actual generosity?

I believe the real reason is that we allow our limitations to stop us. But Jesus does not let his disciples off the hook here:

“And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.”

Matthew 14:19-21

Isn’t this amazing? Something miraculous happens. Jesus does what the disciples could never do on their own, but he doesn’t do it until the disciples take a step of action.

  • Is it possible Jesus has amazing things he wants to do in the world?
  • Is it possible Jesus wants to take our effort and multiply it in ways far beyond what we could ever imagine?
  • Is it possible Jesus wants to do all of these things, but he is waiting on you to take the first step?

I love this quote from Saint Augustine, “Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not.”

Don’t Let Your Limitations Stop You from Giving from a Generous Heart

Listen to me please, God is waiting on his people to move from a desire to be generous to giving from a generous heart. And much as he did with the loaves and the fishes, when we take a step toward generosity, he will multiply our efforts. If I was going to put this into a formula, it might say something like this:

What We Have + Who God is = Enough.

It really is this simple. If we have the faith to look past our limitations and bring what we have to God, he will use our generosity to change the lives of people. And it doesn’t just change the lives of other people, this type of faithful generosity changes our lives as well.

Not only does it bring us closer to the heart of God, but it also helps us physically. According to a study done by The Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York, generosity…

  • Lowers our blood pressure
  • Lowers our risk of dementia
  • Lessens our anxiety and depression
  • Reduces our cardiovascular risk
  • Increases our overall happiness

These physical changes do not only take place in the person being generous, but they also affect the recipient of generosity.

The bottom line is this: Activating our generosity makes everything better.

Final Thoughts

So here is the million-dollar question: How do we do it? How do we move from a desire for generosity to active generosity?

There are multiple answers to that question, but today I want to share one action step with you. I believe if you take this action step, you will see God move in powerful ways. If you want to give from a generous heart: start small.

That’s it! All we have to do is start with something small and simple. Many times, we delay generosity because we are waiting for the bigger or better opportunity to come along. But I believe God is providing opportunities for generosity right where we are.

We can start with the people right in front of us, the ones we see every day. And here’s the best part—if you are faithful with the small things, God will keep providing you with greater opportunities. Proverbs 11:24 says, “The world of the generous gets larger and larger.”

I love this verse.

The Bible tells us when we become generous, the world gets bigger and the opportunities become more frequent. Start right where you are. Don’t allow your limitations to keep you from giving what you have to God.

Trust Him to multiply your faithful efforts. Move from a desire for generosity to actually living generously. If you do, I can promise you this… the results will be more than you can possibly imagine.

God is waiting on you. All you have to do is do something.