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How Churches can Encourage Joyful Generosity

September 13, 2022

How Churches can Encourage Joyful Generosity

Have you ever received such unexpected good news that it made you laugh? Maybe you got accepted into your dream school when you didn’t think you stood a chance. Or your cancer went into remission when just a short time ago things looked far more bleak.

The Bible tells the story of a husband and wife who were so stunned by God’s generosity that all they could do was laugh. There names were Abraham and Sarah. When they were very old, the Lord told them they would have a baby. When she heard the news, Sarah, who was well past the typical childbearing age, laughed.

“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age’” (Genesis 21:6-7).

You see, long ago God had promised Abraham that he would have more descendants that could be counted. But as he became older, that seemed unlikely to happen.

The gift that she and Abraham received was so unexpected, so incredibly generous, so beyond anything they could possibly imagine, that all she could do was laugh.

If the recipients of generosity can be moved to laughter, why not the givers? After all, Jesus said it’s more blessed to give than to receive (Acts :35). Isn’t it reasonable, then, that givers would be filled with even more joy than receivers? If that isn’t the norm in your church, maybe you’re not telling enough stories.

The joy of generosity

I know of a couple of churches that hold annual celebrations of generosity. There might be a speaker who does some light teaching about generosity, but mostly, the events focus on stories of lives that have been changed by generosity—in particular, the generosity of the people who are part of those churches.

Like the story of a woman that the church helped to rescue out of sex trafficking. How she was given a safe place to stay, unconditional love, food and clothing, and the hope of a better future that only Jesus could provide.

And the stories of inner city children who got to experience a Christian camp run by a ministry partner of the church—kids who for the first time rode horses, sang campfire songs, spent time in nature, made s’mores, and heard about Jesus.

And the story of a family that lives within a mile of the church—how they drove by the church for years, irritated by the traffic on Sunday mornings—and how they are now fully plugged in, having been invited to church by a member who met them at their kids’ school.

In the telling of these stories, there are always tears as people are moved by God’s goodness. But there is also laughter as people shake their heads in wonder at how God is bringing about so much good, and how He invites ordinary people into the adventure of life-change with Him.

A time and a place

This isn’t the time to teach generosity as an act of obedience (even though surely it is), or about the continued relevance of the tithe (even though Jesus affirmed the practice in Matthew 23:23). This is a time to marvel at the miracle of generosity and to revel in the real stories of real people whose lives really have been changed by generosity. 

It’s a time for people to see that when they give in Jesus name, they are actually giving directly to Jesus.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Then the righteous will answer him, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?

The King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:35-40).

So, how do we inspire cheerful generosity, joyful generosity—generosity that ignites laughter? We tell stories. Stories of people whose lives have been radically changed because someone chose to act in concert with their God-given design: generously.


Matt Bell is the author of four Biblical money management books published by NavPress. He speaks at churches and conferences throughout the country and writes the MattAboutMoney blog.

This article should not be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. You may wish to consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual financial situation.

Matt Bell is the author of four Biblical money management books published by NavPress. He speaks at churches and conferences throughout the country and writes the MattAboutMoney blog.

This article should not be considered legal, tax, or financial advice. You may wish to consult a tax or financial advisor about your individual financial situation.

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