Err on the Side of Generosity || Joshua Becker

Posted on May 22nd, by Joshua Becker in Hand, Heart, Unitive Sessions: Money. 6 comments

Err on the Side of Generosity || Joshua Becker

“You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” ― John Bunyan

Ultimately, we have only two options with the resources we have been given. We can either spend them on ourselves or we can spend them on others.

Our society is really good at the former. Statistically, Americans give away 4.7% of their income to charitable organizations. This means, on average, we keep 95% of our wealth for ourselves. Certainly there is room to maneuver inside these statistics as they don’t factor private gifts of generosity to individuals. But in a country where society, dollar for dollar, gives less today than during the Great Depression, the argument can still be made: We are far better at keeping our wealth for ourselves than spending it on others.

This is too bad. We are spending our resources in the wrong places and missing out on true fulfillment, meaning, and joy in the process. In fact, compared side-by-side, generosity offers far greater benefit to our lives than keeping wealth to ourselves.

Consider the comparisons:

The Benefits of Generosity

Generous people are happier and experience greater levels of satisfaction. This is the testimony of Scripture and confirmed by countless scientific studies.

Generous people have healthier bodies. strong correlation exists between the well-being, health, and longevity of people who are emotionally and behaviorally generous.

Generous people have stronger relationships with others. People always enjoy the company of a generous giver to the company of a selfish hoarder. People are naturally attracted towards others who have an open heart to share.

Generous people experience contentment easier and are less materialistic. Generosity opens the door to contentment as it helps us realize the blessings we already have and opens our eyes to the needs around us.

Generosity causes our lives to resemble God’s. By his nature, God gives. Our nature ought to be the same.

Generosity draws us closer to God (Matthew 6:21). The teaching of Christ is that our heart will always follow our treasure (not the other way around). We draw ourselves closer to God when we give our resources to Him and His people.

Generosity opens the door for God’s blessing. Solomon said it like this, “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9).

Generosity improves the condition of our world as it brings God’s kingdom to earth. In the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:10), Jesus prayed that God’s will would be done on earth. Knowing that God’s will and desire is for justice and love and blessing, each and every act of generosity brings Christ’s prayer closer to reality.

The benefits of generosity extend to the giver, the receiver, and the Lord above them all. On the other hand, Scripture offers very distinct warnings about wealth in our lives:

The Dangers of Wealth

Wealth can often become a relational barrier. We drive our cars into our garage to eat our food and sit with our family in our house around our television. In many cases, the very design of our suburban neighborhoods promotes isolation.

Wealth can lead to pride and arrogance. This subtle danger was clearly on display during the aftermath when Barack Obama famously said, “You didn’t build that.” Remember the outcry over that statement? The peoples’ prideful response of “Oh yes I did build this! I did this on my own.” ought to remind us of Solomon’s words in Proverbs 28:11, “A rich man is wise in his own eyes.

Wealth often leads to self-sufficiency and a false sense of security. Simply put, there is little need to trust God for my next meal when my freezer, refrigerator, cupboards and pantry are already full of food.

Wealth often fuels discontent and dissatisfaction. The short-sighted view is that the accumulation of money and wealth will quickly give way to contentment… and subsequently, generosity. But this is not the case. On the other hand, the opposite is almost always true. Once we accumulate the means, we open the door to new levels of consumption, comparison, envy, and discontent. As James said, “We begin to spend what we get on out own pleasures.” (James 4:3).

Wealth divides our loyalties. Jesus summed it up very well In Luke 18, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The hoarding of wealth and the accumulation of material possessions divides our heart, our affections, our time, and our energy. It is overwhelmingly difficult to fully experience the kingdom of God in this life while holding on to 95% of our wealth.

Wealth does not accomplish its purpose of eliminating economic worry. Our society is the richest it has ever been. Comparatively speaking, Americans are the wealthiest human beings on the entire planet. The U.S. represents 4.5% of the global population but nearly 30% of its total GDP. The income cutoff for the top 50% wealthiest individuals worldwide is $2,138/year. In other words, if your annual income is over $2,000, you are in the top 50% of wage-earners in the world… and $60,000 will put you in the top 1%. We are a wealthy nation. And yet, we are relentlessly burdened with economic worry. Wealth does not deliver on its promise to remove economic worry in our lives.

Now, be careful to not hear what I am not saying. I am not contending that the presence of wealth in our lives is a sin. Janie Stuart has already addressed that point clearly. But I am contending–just like Scripture–that the dangers of wealth are very real and very subtle. They often take root in our hearts without us even noticing.

On the other hand, the benefits of generosity are life-giving, prevalent, obvious, and desperately needed.

And given the fact that our resources can only be spent in one of two places, let’s choose to err on the side of generosity.


Do you have questions about this post or anything you have read during the Unitive’s session on money? Do you just want to drop by and say hello to one of our contributors? If so, join us for a live Twitter-chat on Wednesday, June 22 at 3pm PT. You can ask any question or just follow along on Twitter at #rethinkmoney.

Joshua Becker Joshua writes regularly on his blog, Becoming Minimalist, where he inspires others to find more life by owning fewer possessions. He is also the author of Simplify and Living with Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness.
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6 Responses to “Err on the Side of Generosity || Joshua Becker”

  1. […] am thankful for my friend and those like him, who wrestle with how to be faithful with the gift and burden of making and having abundant, financial […]

  2. […] Err on the Side of Generosity | The Unitive by Joshua Becker.  Once per month, I post faith-based content at the Unitive. My latest post focuses on the spiritual benefits of choosing generosity. I hope it challenges you to give more away. […]

  3. great post!! i appreciate knowing more of your spiritual side to minimalism; thanks for linking to here from becomingminimalist!

  4. […] Consider the benefits of generosity. […]

  5. […] studies indicating as much and the Bible also talks of the benefits to living generously.  Here is another blog about its benefits.  Keep in mind generosity doesn’t always mean you have to give money.  Many people would […]

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