It’s tax time. And, every year about this time I remember a lesson on generosity that changed my life. My attitude toward giving completely changed through this one experience. Here it is –
I was 22 years old and coming to the end of my first year as a full-time Minister of Music. For the first time in our married life, we actually had a full salary, a place to live furnished to us by the church, and a little money leftover at the end of the month. We had just bought our first car. We were tithing – because we both had been trained to tithe. I thought we had it all together with how we were spending our money.
Then, the financial secretary called me to her office and handed me two documents – a 1099 reporting my income and a contribution record. I opened the 1099 first – then immediately opened the contribution record and was stunned at what I saw.
My giving amount for the year was exactly 10% of my income – to the penny (rounded up of course). It literally made me sick to my stomach. I had never thought of myself as legalistic. But, here it was staring at me right in the face.
Is that what my relationship to the Lord is like? Do I just want to get by and do the minimum as a giver?
It stared me on a journey that day that is still going on in my life. To this day, I am learning how to be generous. As a matter of fact, I have come to the place of believing that my attitude toward money is one of the easiest ways to evaluate my attitude toward God. Jesus had a lot to say about that too.
And generosity can be practiced with more than just money. You can be generous with your possessions, your time, your abilities, and so on.
Here are three simple lessons I’ve learned so far –
Generosity is learned in poverty.
Having plenty of resources will not make you generous. The attitude you have toward a small amount will be the same attitude you will have when have more than you need.
Generosity is a simple choice – repeated over and over for the rest of your life.
That day when I was confronted with my legalism toward money, I made a choice to be generous and it has guided me ever since. But, I’ve had to repeat the choice many, many times throughout the years.
Generosity is best practiced in anonymity.
Any testimonies I could give here would negate the point. Let’s just say, the best experiences I have had with generosity are ones no one else knows about. Whenever I feel the inclination to pursue credit for the generosity I am showing, I know my motives are all messed up and I have to check those at the door.
Last point – never once have I been generous and regretted it. Other times I have not chosen generosity and regretted it immediately.
Now, let’s get those taxes done.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.