No seriously. Start giving.

Too many Christians falsely believe the Spirit’s fruit grows spontaneously. Since it’s the Spirit’s fruit, he grows it, just like in Jesus’s Independent Fruit Story where wheat grows without the planter realizing how. Mk 4.26-29 That parable, by the way, is about God’s kingdom, not the Spirit’s fruit—but hey, if it means we get freebies and don’t have to lift a finger, people are perfectly happy to receive freebies.

So the assumption is if we’re truly following Jesus, fruit happens. Obviously we’ve not thought this idea through: Exactly how are we following Jesus when we’re not deliberately behaving in ways that’ll grow fruit? Passively? Is anyone meant to follow Jesus passively? (Spoiler: No.)

If we’re gonna grow in love, we gotta love others, particularly unloveable people. If we’re gonna develop patience, we gotta be patient despite suffering in minor or major ways. (Which is why I hate developing patience.) And if we’re gonna develop generosity, we have to give.

And since Americans are so very very Mammonist, generosity is probably the hardest fruit to develop. We’ve made so many concessions to greed. We consider ourselves clever, not stingy, when we find ways to avoid giving. We’ve justified so many practices because we want wealth, not poverty. And I get not wanting poverty. I’ve been poor; it sucks! But even when I was poor I could give. That woman throwing small copper coins into the treasury Mk 12.41-44, Lk 21.1-4 could give; so can we. So can anyone.

But stinginess is a work of the flesh, a sign we’re not fit for God’s kingdom. Like Paul wrote:

Ephesians 5.5-7 KJV
5 For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. 6 Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. 7 Be not ye therefore partakers with them.

Coveting wealth means you’ve made an idol of it, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. God’s gonna judge those who were covetous instead of generous; don’t lump yourself in with them. The stakes really are that high.

So like I said, the way we develop generosity is to give. Let’s get started.

Give up your position.

It may not be so obvious to many people, but generosity isn’t just about giving away money. And no, I don’t say this so you have a loophole where you can give away everything but money. A lot of Christians have definitely chosen that tack to take, and as a result they’re selectively generous… and selectively stingy. Let’s purge ourselves of all stinginess, and that means we gotta purge ourselves of any non-monetary stinginess too.

It starts with something as simple as courtesy. Stop trying to be first. Stop insisting upon having the last word. Let others go ahead of you in line. Hold open doors. Hold the elevator. Offer to help. Go the extra mile. Mt 5.41

Oh, you do this already? Great! Now keep doing it… when you’re in a hurry. When you’re pressed for time. When the kids are acting up and you just wanna get out of there. When everybody around you is just the rudest, and you feel wholly justified in not just telling them off, but whipping out your umbrella and caning them with it. When you’re pretty sure your patience is hanging on by a hair, keep being courteous.

Yeah, courtesy’s a little thing. But it makes a huge difference to people who don’t encounter enough grace in their lives. For other people whose patience is hanging on by a hair, it helps a lot. And yeah, there are gonna be self-centered people who never notice your kindness, but never use them as an excuse for unkindness. You do what’s right.

If you’re in a position of entitlement, power, advantage, or supremacy, lower yourself. Be like Jesus:

Philippians 2.3-8 KJV
3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Jesus is God, and had all the power and resources and wealth of God, yet gave that up and became human. Could he still access those resources? Sure; through the Holy Spirit, Ac 10.38 same as we can. But notice how Jesus taps those resources: By not using them for himself, even though he totally can, and he’s not robbing God if he does so; but by using them for us. For the needy and the sick. For those who lack a voice, lack power, have no advantage—who have all the systems of the world even structured against them so as to rob and imprison and kill them.

So if we’re in any position to help people in those predicaments, we absolutely should. And fix the systems of the world so they don’t crap all over people. We’re to use our position to uplift. Arguably that’s why God puts us in such positions Es 4.14 —and if we won’t use them to help others, God’s gonna judge us for that too.

Give up your spare change.

Christians are notorious for being lousy tippers. Most of that is stinginess. Some of it is that we still live by karma instead of grace; we only tip if we feel they deserve it, instead of recognizing their stingy bosses underpay them because they covet their tips. We need to get rid of our tip calculators and tip whatever will make our servers smile. (Or, if you really tip well, cry.)

Don’t think, “Are you supposed to tip this person? I know you’re supposed to tip waiters, but do you tip the busboys?…” When in doubt, tip anyway. If they weren’t expecting it, they’ll be pleased. If they were expecting it, they won’t feel slighted because you erred on the side of stinginess.

Worried you can’t afford to tip all these people? Maybe you can’t. Maybe you need to stop going out to eat so often. Or maybe it just involves a little cautious budgeting: Instead of drinks and dessert, tip. Just be sure when you do go out, be generous.

And yes, tip beggars.

I’ve heard all the arguments: “They’re just gonna spend it on alcohol.” Or weed, or meth, or crack. Fine. If you’re that worried about what beggars might waste money on, give them food. (Not leftovers or doggie bags; that’s nasty. Buy them a whole entree. Buy gift cards and hand ’em out instead of change.)

But don’t just ignore beggars, and pretend you have nothing in your pockets when they ask. Jesus’s instruction, “Give to every man that asketh of thee,” Lk 6.30 isn’t negotiable, or only for the deserving. The context of that passage implies these folks aren’t deserving at all! But it’s not about them. It’s about growing generosity in us.

Give to charity. When you see the Salvation Army kettles outside the grocery store, give. When you see a school fundraiser selling brownies or raffle tickets, you don’t have to buy anything if you’d rather not; just give ’em a buck. (Or five, or ten, or more.) Stop clinging to that spare money as if you really needed an afternoon latté.

Give through your church.

If you really wanna make an impact in God’s kingdom, here’s a really fun activity: Get involved in your church as an invisible, behind-the-scenes benefactor.

First get in on your church’s benevolence ministry, or prayer team. Every time you find out someone in your church, or someone who’s contacted your church, has a need which you can actually do something about, secretly and privately do something about it:

  • Someone can’t pay the utility bill? Pay it for them.
  • Somebody’s short on groceries? Get ’em groceries.
  • Someone’s looking for a job? Be their headhunter. Get ’em one.
  • Someone’s kid really wants a particular toy for Christmas? You get the idea.

And like I said, do it secretly and privately. Don’t let ’em find out who gave them what they needed. Make it so they can’t thank anybody but God. That’s the whole point, y’know. “And thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” Mt 6.4

Not every need involves money, of course. Some involve time: People need childcare, or someone to do a repair job, or a ride to another town, or people to help them move, or someone to mow the lawn. If you can give time, do that. If you have a useful skill set, give that. Give whatever God’s given you. It’s why he gave such things to you in the first place.

But as much as possible, hide your involvement. Sometimes that’s not really possible. Cleaning someone’s house for them, means they’re gonna catch you cleaning it. (Unless you break in and do it when they’re not around. Oh, and don’t do that. Not just because it’s creepy; in America they might shoot you.) If you can’t hide, don’t worry about it too much. Just tell them, when they ask what they can do for you, that you want ’em to pay it forward.

The idea is you don’t want grateful people to feel indebted to you. They’ll try to reciprocate, and that’s not the point; it’s grace. And frequently they’ll try to reciprocate by making you famous: “You deserve recognition. Other people need to see your good example. We need to get your name out there!” No, they really don’t. The idea is for God, and only God, to get credit. The only testimony we wanna hear is “God provided.”

Material needs and wants are always the easiest problems to solve. It’s truly ridiculous our churches so often consider ourselves unable to solve them. We’re not. The only reason we don’t is because the individual Christians in them, especially the wealthy ones, don’t even think to behave this way. They might give to charity, but forget the saying, “Charity begins at home.” Particularly one’s church home.

There’s your starting point.

Of course, as we put generosity into practice, we find lots more opportunities to give. There’s a lot of need in this world!

Thing is, if we’re generous, we also start to discover God gives us more resources. No, he doesn’t do as the prosperity gospel folks claim and automatically make us richer: He usually gives more resources. More time. Other people to contact for help. He brings other Christians alongside us who also want to be benevolent. God knows how to stretch a buck, same as Jesus stretched loaves and fishes.

You’ll also find generosity is way more fun than hoarding. Less messy too.