The Bible is filled with practical stories of how individuals pursued generosity. Most thrived in generosity while a few could use some grace and practice. However, we can all learn from both. I know I have failed enough times and could use the inspiration to keep at it. Take a look at these real-life givers in the Bible. You can even try turning them into a leadership devotion, offering talk, or sermon series. Feel free to let me know how you put them to use.
The Spontaneous Giver can be seen in the young boy with his fishes and loaves (John 6:9). I do not think this young man woke up that day committed to giving away all he had. However, when the surprise opportunity arose, he held loosely to his stuff. Jesus then took his meager portions and blessed thousands. Live with an open hand seeking much fruit.
The Devoted Giver can be seen in Cornelius (Acts 10:2). The Bible says that he was devout, prayerful, and generous. He lived this way both privately and publicly. It was how he led his family and also how he led his career (see Acts 10:7). In this passage we learn that his consistent devotion was recognized by God, and he was honored with a greater assignment.
The Faith-Filled Giver can be seen in the widow and her offering (Luke 21:2). This passage really interested me because of its level of description. This poor widow gave two small copper coins. Her gift just keeps getting smaller and smaller the more words the author uses. However, her result, as stated by Jesus, was that she gave more than everyone else because she gave all she had to live on. Evidently Jesus does measure the faith amount. He makes small things big.
The Creative Giver can be seen in Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37). Barnabas had something valuable, a piece of property he owned. However, his eternal perspective and the needs around him caused a generous response. The property he owned was actually a gift from God to meet the needs of another. He sold the property and brought 100% of the proceeds to the apostles so they could meet the needs of the community. Ananias and Sapphira pretended to do the same in Acts 5. I love how these two stories are found back to back in the Bible.
The Crazy Giver can be seen in the lady with her alabaster jar of perfume (Mark 14:3). This extremely generous gift was given directly to and benefitting Jesus. The Bible tells us that this perfume was worth more than an entire year’s wage! It was such a crazy-big gift that it shocked those who were present. They actually rebuked her for being wasteful. Instead Jesus applauds her. He says it is a clear reminder of how generous the gospel really is.
Unsuspecting Giver – The book of Luke tells us about some of the early actions of the 12 disciples and several ladies (Luke 8:1-3). These early recruits were newbies in the faith, straight out of the marketplace. On top of that, the women are described as formerly having evil spirits, diseases, and demons. This is probably not the list that most would make heroes of or at least not just yet. Still these early adopters who are taking their first steps of faith are said to be supporting Jesus “out of their own means” and Jesus wants to make sure you know them. There are no high and lofty requirements to generosity, just give.
Called Giver – Luke also introduces us to an extreme giving request of Jesus (Luke 9:3 and 10:4). He called his early disciples, over 80 of them, to give up everything for the sake of a short-term mission trip. He sent them all out into the harvest, to share the good news and help people with their needs. Jesus called them to go, take nothing, not a dime or a change of clothes, not even a snack. We are called to support Jesus both out of our means and at times by giving up all we have. Don’t worry, you won’t be the first or last person Jesus asks or sends out. Just one of many who have learned to enjoy the adventure.
Compassionate Giver – Luke 10:35 introduces us to a fictional character, but the story is powerfully real. Today we call him The Good Samaritan. A man who allowed his day to be interrupted. He didn’t permit the inconvenience or expense to stop him. Whatever others may say about his investment in a troubled person did not matter. He gave compassionately and comprehensively. No trite pat on the back here. Rather he gave time, energy, and resources over an extended period for a guy he may never see again. Giving people are both simple and alert. This story could look a little heroic, but it’s really just common courtesy. If you can’t be stopped in your tracks, you will never be able to give compassionately.
Investing Giver – Luke 10:15 is another fictional character in a very real situation. It’s a successful business man tempted by greed. His thriving business has put him in a quandary. His barns are too small, so he builds bigger barns to store his wealth and coast into the future. Only life changes, and his money can’t solve his spiritual problem. Focusing on an earthly investment did not pay off as he anticipated. Jesus’ instructions are to live by faith, and don’t trust in worldly wealth. Instead, sell your possessions and give to the poor. This will reap an unstoppable reward, and grow a heart towards God. Seeing the future clearly helps us hold loosely to the things of today.
Fake Giver – Luke 18:22 shares about a man who lived on the dark side of generosity. We commonly call him the Rich Young Ruler. He appears to desire a relationship with Jesus, however as the story unfolds we learn where his heart really is. He is so proud of his religious life, then Jesus exposes that it is paper thin. No hero here. Only a stark reminder that the Rich Young Ruler can be a stealthy resident in the life of very religious people. He chooses to fail at generosity, and he had all the resources to accomplish it. How sad.
Transformed Giver – Luke 19:8 provides us with an immediate and rather bold response of faith. It comes from Zacchaeus. He is brand new in Jesus’ way, like less than one day. He is really wealthy just like the Investing Giver and the Fake Giver. Jesus doesn’t ask him to show his faith through generosity at all. Nope, still this doesn’t stop Zaccheus from thinking about it on his own. He confesses his financial sins, having been a cheat and thief. Then he demonstrates a changed life by giving half his possessions to the poor and paying back anyone he wronged 4x what he owed them. Jesus said we would be known by things like love and fruit. Generosity is a great demonstration if both.
At Generosity by Lifeway, we have curriculum and sermon series utilizing several of these givers. Fee free to check out all our resources at Lifeway.com/generosity.