Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Whole life generosity | Using everything you are for God's Kingdom

Generosity Is Not All About Money

In our quest to be more generous as believers, I think it's very easy to slip into a mindset of generosity through money. Many of us in the Christian Personal Finance world have a tendency to camp out on the money-giving topic because as a rule, American Christians are not incredibly generous. On a side note, if you disagree with that statement, I would encourage you to read Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don't Give Away More Money. I'm in the middle of reading this book, and it's very insightful on the giving patterns of American Christians.

Anyway, financial giving is an important aspect of generosity, but it is still just one part of a whole mindset of giving. God has also blessed us with time, energy, spiritual gifts, and natural abilities.

Time And Energy

We have all been given 24 hours in a day in which to accomplish what God wants us to do. He's observing how we manage and utilize the time in which He has blessed us. I don't believe He necessarily wants us to be workaholics in the Kingdom of God. He does provide opportunities for us to rest, reflect, and recreate in order to run our race with endurance. You can even look at Jesus' own life in the four Gospels and see that Jesus often took the time to rest and rejuvenate from busy ministry life. But, I do think we all could improve in this area through eliminating time wasters and distractions that can crowd out our daily schedules. Hey, I'm as guilty as the next Christian!

Although we may have all been given at least the same amount of daily time, we are not all blessed with the same levels of energy. Some of us are super fast-paced and run on relatively low levels of sleep and high levels of caffeine. We have things to do, and we wake up early each morning with our hearts racing at a high metabolic rate to accomplish as much as we can in our day. Others, though, are slower-paced. They enjoy sleeping in each morning and generally taking their time in just about every activity they engage themselves. They enjoy a slower pace with their family and friends; they are more relational. And you know what? This is a good thing. God created us all differently. He can use our natural energy inclinations to build up God's Kingdom. He can use the slower-paced members of the body to build deep relationships with those around them. He can use the faster-paced, hyperactive believers to be the "doers" in the Kingdom. However God has wired you, use your unique energy level for God's Kingdom purposes.

Spiritual Gifts

Once we have accepted Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit. At this time, we receive a set of spiritual gifts that are unique to our person. Each believer is given different spiritual gifts so that each of us may work together with others in order to be a complete body of Christ and accomplish God's mission that He has for His Church here on earth.

In the New Testament, there are three primary passages that lay out the various spiritual gifts that are given to believers. These passages include Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. There is a Wikipedia entry which provides a great explanation of these gifts as well as handy chart that breaks down the various spiritual gifts that are outlined in these three specific passages:

Other GiftsThe 5 Fold MinistryThe 9 Spiritual Gifts
Romans 12:6-8Ephesians 4:111 Corinthians 12:1-14
  • Prophecy
  • Ministry
  • Teaching
  • Exhortation
  • Giving
  • Leading
  • Showing mercy (compassion)
  • Apostolic
  • Prophetic
  • Evangelical
  • Pastoral
  • Teaching
  • Wisdom
  • Knowledge
  • Discerning various spirits
  • Speaking in tongues
  • Interpretation of tongues
  • Prophecy
  • Faith
  • Working of miracles
  • Healing

*Chart courtesy of Wikipedia.

Because of time, I won't go into any details on the various spiritual gifts on this chart. I believe a part of our Christian walk is going through the process of discovering our spiritual gifts. Oftentimes, this is discovered through trial and error by trying out various roles in our churches. You can also speed up the learning process through taking spiritual gifts inventories. Check out the following post I wrote last year regarding  Spiritual Gift Inventories. In this post, I list a few different spiritual gifts tests that you can complete online. I would encourage you to take one of these inventories to discover your spiritual gifts. Once you know what they are, seek out ways in which you can use your gifts for God's Kingdom.

Natural Abilities

As human beings, we are born with natural abilities that often emerge as we grow and mature. We see musical talents that emerge from children as they start singing or playing an instrument during their school years. We take note of children and adults who have the ability to work with their hands, whether it be building a fort in the back yard, a go-cart, or rebuilding a car. And others may have a different artistic bent, where they enjoy drawing, painting, or computer-aided design.

The majority of these talents can be offered in service to God for His Kingdom purposes. The key, though, is for churches to have a method in which people can plug their natural abilities into specific ministries. Artistic talents are some of the easiest to identify as well as plug into ministry. If you can sing, then you could join the church choir or praise team. If you play a musical instrument, then you can join the church orchestra or praise band. But, what if you have a natural ability for fixing cars? How could that be used for God's Kingdom? Some churches actually have ministries that do car repair for less fortunate people. If you have the spiritual gift of leadership and a natural ability for fixing cars, why not combine these two together and lead your own ministry to help others with their car problems. Get creative in using your natural abilities to serve the Lord!

Develop And Manage Your Gifts For Service

I think some of us instinctively know where we are naturally talented and spiritually gifted. For example, early on in my life, I knew that I had a natural gift for music, specifically in playing trumpet. From a young age, my parents and others encouraged me to practice, improve my talent, and then eventually use it for God's Kingdom purposes.

I went through a period in my life, though, in which I wanted to use this musical talent for my own selfish purposes. Honestly, I don't know that I was holding back this gift in rebellion towards God. I was just too immature in my spiritual walk to fully comprehend how God wanted me to use the gifts He had blessed me with. Through time and maturity, as well as yielding myself to God's unique purpose for my life, I have come to a greater realization of what it truly means to use my time, energy, spiritual gifts, and natural abilities to build up the Kingdom.

Another interesting thing that has happened for me in my own life is that as I developed and grew in these areas of gifts and abilities, I have noticed God moving me in different directions. New passions in the areas of stewardship, generosity, teaching, and writing have grown out of using my gifts in the area of music ministry. I believe the key is allowing yourself to be teachable and flexible as you grow and mature in your spiritual gifts and natural abilities.

Whole Life Generosity

There is only one you. God has given you a certain amount of time to live here on this earth. He has hard-wired you at a certain energy level. At the point of salvation, He has given you specific spiritual gifts to be developed on your Christian journey. Finally, He has blessed you with unique natural abilities that need to be used for God's Kingdom purposes.

The question that only you can answer is the following: "Am I going to be generous in using my whole life, everything God has shaped me to be, in order to build up God's Kingdom while I live my life here on earth?" God has made us managers of His financial resources, and He's looking to see if you're a good manager of His wealth. But He's also observing if you're a good manager of time, energy, spiritual gifts, and natural abilities. If He were to grade you today on your management skills in these areas, how would you fare? Would you be wildly successful, receive a passing grade, or fail miserably? What can you do today to become a more generous person in all areas of your life?
The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 4:7-11).
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