What about non-financial generosity?


“What about non-financial generosity? I want to be generous in other ways.” – Claire, Melbourne, Australia



Scripture talks about all kinds of generosity, giving not just our money, but ourselves to God.

But let’s be clear: financial giving is required of every believer.

“On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” (1 Corinthians 16:2)

Paul recognizes that the believers may not have a lot, but “each one of you” can give “a sum of money.”

The Apostle Paul writes to them again a few years later:

“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.” (2 Corinthians 8:7)

Theologians point out that “giving” in this context is “contributing to the needs of others” (metadidous). Paul is raising money for the poor saints in Jerusalem, and the context points to financial giving.



1. Check Your Heart.

As you think about non-financial generosity, what’s your motive? I love Claire’s desire to be generous. Before we move into non-financial generosity, it’s important to ask “why”? As I lead JOGs, lots of people explain that there are other ways to be generous. But they come from two different hearts:

Giving Anything Except Money.

“But there are other ways to be generous.” From behind her bright blue glasses, an older Australia lady lowered her chin and delivered this critique. Uncomfortable with the direction that the Journey of Generosity was going, she decided to register her objection. We learned of her fear of not having enough; she fears being poor, fears being destitute in retirement. She asked, “What if God already has provided, and it’s what I have now?” She struggled with the idea that God loves to refill our cup as we pour it out. Was her heart yet surrendered to allowing God to be her provider?

Giving in Addition to Money.

“What else can I give, beyond money?” Her eyes were open and earnest, sitting behind a desk at one of Korea’s largest churches. “Tell me more,” I encouraged her. “God already showed me that I should give my savings to help start a church plant. I’ve done that. I obeyed. But I want to give more to God.”


2. Let Generosity Move Around.

Generosity is restless and active. On the move from place to place. Generosity starts in one place and ends in another.

My childhood church prepared activity kits to help restless kids (like me) make it through the sermon. Often they included a maze, but they didn’t mark the beginning and end. You could do it from bottom to top, or top to bottom. There was no right way.

  What’s the next step for you? Take a small step toward a new kind of generosity.

Similarly, generosity has various entrances and exits. It never finishes where it begins. Generosity is a maze with different beginning points and ending points. People who are financially generous can sneer at people who haven’t gotten to that part of the maze yet; and people who love to volunteer roll their eyes at others who give “just money.” Different parts of the maze.

But give generosity enough time and it will get to every part of the maze – as the Spirit makes you generous with time, talent, and treasure… or with treasure, time and talent.

Maybe you’re an attorney who’s encouraged to give pro bono hours, so you generously give your talent. But you’re still paying off the debt you incurred to buy in to the partnership, so you’re not to financial generosity yet. Try it!

Or perhaps you are a Sunday school teacher on a tight budget. You light up when you pour yourself out at church, but your hands tremble when they pass the offering plate down your row.

What’s the next step for you? Take a small step toward a new kind of generosity.


3. What’s in Your Hand?

Some of our most beautiful stories of generosity are from those who can’t give financially.

If you haven’t seen our most popular story, the Handful of Rice, let me grab you by the collar and encourage you to take five minutes to do that right now.

The Mizos start with what they have: rice. What is it that you have? God asked Moses, “What’s in your hand?”

I was in Ethiopia last month. One man from South Ethiopia told me that, while farmers in his church don’t often have money, they want to be generous with what they do have. They have coffee. So they walk through their fields and tie a red banner on trees whose beans they’re giving to God. When they harvest those trees, the beans are kept separate and the proceeds go to the church.

Others in Ethiopia saw the “Handful of Rice” video and said, “We don’t have rice here, but we do have injira flour.” And they started bringing it to the church. “I don’t know how to receive that flour,” their pastor explained. Three other Ethiopian pastors quickly jumped in to explain to him how his church can collect, store, and sell off the flour.

You may not have rice or injira flour or coffee beans. But what do you have?

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