The Problem With Being Generous
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” – Luke 6:31
The above Scripture is a fantastic rule for living. We teach this to our kids. This verse can be applied to basically all venues of attitude and action – treat others how you want to be treated, speak to others how you want to be spoken to, and (my personal favorite) give to others the way you want others to give to you.
I’m an obsessive gift-giver. I buy things that I find and love with no real recipient in mind, simply because I know this gift is going to be perfect for someone. I love putting together gift baskets. I love watching people open gifts I’ve meticulously picked out for them. I love wrapping presents (although I’m admittedly not great at it). I love everything about the gift-giving process. I take pride in trying to be one of the best and most generous gift-givers I know.
That sounds really great, right? It is! For the most part…
The problem with generous living and giving comes in the second part of that verse in Luke. Many times, as we are giving to others, we can’t help but anticipate the “as you would have them do to you” line of thinking. We give a good gift, so we expect a good gift. We are over-the-top thoughtful, only to feel hurt when very little thought is bestowed upon us in return. The above line of thinking led to my own offense a handful of times before I started to realize I had a generosity problem. My problem wasn’t how generous I was; my problem was how generous I expected others to be. And that, I have found, is a huge problem.
Generosity isn’t generosity if it’s given with expectation.
I know this. I believe this. So why do I struggle with this? I’m not talking about wanting dollar-for-dollar recompense for my own giving. No way. What I am talking about, however, is what I perceive to be common sense. If I go all-out for someone and they show little-to-no care in return, it can hurt my heart and make me want to clamp up on my generosity. That’s selfish, but I’m just trying to be honest. We can feel a certain way when we go into giving with (knowing or not) expectation, can’t we?
The solution to this problem isn’t to stop being generous. The solution lies in our own response and action. I can’t control someone else’s generosity. I can only control myself (and sometimes not even that if I’m honest). Before I give, I need to check myself for my motives. Am I giving to receive? Do I expect something in return? Will I be okay if I am never thanked?
At its core, generosity is a one-way gift. I give it away and watch as it blesses someone else. Notice the verbiage: I give it away. Once I give it, it’s gone. The point of giving is not and cannot be to receive. The point of giving is to give. Period.
If you’re like me and you’ve struggled with the concept of giving and being disappointed by the lack of actions of others, maybe it’s time for a checkup. Why do we give? What is the heart behind it? There is great freedom that comes from giving and letting go – in generosity and in much of life. There is a blessing that comes from giving that has nothing to do with the gift-getter. Not only should we give, we are commanded to give (Matthew 5:38-42).
The blessing that comes from giving is the giving. Acts 20:35 reminds us of Jesus’ words:
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
God blesses us when we give. Your recipients may never acknowledge or return your favor, and that’s okay! Givers are blessed. Period. When we can grasp the idea that we aren’t just giving to others, but giving as a sign of worship to a God who gave all for us (John 3:16), we are freed from the need to be thanked or reimbursed. We could never pay God back for the gift of His Son. If He is the model of our generosity, we can’t possibly imagine that we deserve things. Gifts are just that: gifts. We can’t treat gifts like estimates or bills.
Let’s change our perspective on giving.
“Freely you have received; freely give.”