Here are two ways you can know if you are truly being generous or if you simply doing a transaction:
- What’s in it for you? If you are giving a gift, what’s your motive? Are you giving because someone gave to you and you feel obligated to give back (I’ve heard a lot of sermons on these lines)? Are you giving because you will be honored in some way (The Smith Memorial Sidewalk)? Are you giving so you will be remembered (The Smith Scholarship Fund)? Are you giving so you won’t feel guilty? There’s an old joke about a man who heard a sermon on honesty. He was so convicted about taxes he hadn’t paid, he sent a check for $10,000 to the IRS along with a note that said, “If after sending this amount, I still feel guilty, I’ll send the rest I owe.” If you are giving with the expectation of getting something in return, you aren’t really being generous, you are buying something.
- Are there strings attached? I am amazed at people who believe their giving entitles them to have their way. I’ve even been threatened: “Pastor, if you don’t do _________ (usually something with the music), I’m going to send my tithe somewhere else.” If that’s your impulse, you aren’t being generous, you are being controlling. I’ve seen this twisted into something like “As much as I give to that church, I expected the pastor to be here for my 2nd cousin’s aunt’s brother’s funeral.” Strings attached means there is no generosity; you are trying to buy control.
Real generosity is going above what is expected. It is giving without expecting a return. It is surrendering control.
So now comes the uncomfortable question: Are you truly generous?