The Generosity Matrix

generous If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably struggled with what God wants you to do with your money before.  Should I sell all my possessions, live under a bridge with rice and beans and give away my entire paycheck?  How do my kids fit into that picture?  What about planning for retirement?  For Christians who are serious about their faith these can be heart wrenching / guilt inducing questions that can truly torment our consciences. 

That’s why I am so thankful for J.D. Greear’s recent post on “The Generosity Matrix”.  Justin Taylor does a great job of summarizing Greear’s six points:

I’ve found this post by J.D. Greear to be very helpful in thinking about giving, generosity, and possessions.

He begins by identifying two different extremes that Christians often hold with regard to possessions. Either:

  1. God wants you to give 10%, and after that you can do whatever you want with your money.
  2. Whatever you give, you should be giving more.

The second position, he says, is much better, but it’s imbalanced and leads to despair and constant guilt. He gives three problems with it:

  1. It never ends.
  2. It’s out of sync with what the Bible says elsewhere about possessions.
  3. It ends up as a spiritualized sense of “compulsory” giving (contra 2 Corinthians 8-9).

Greear goes on to provide a scriptural matrix on this issue. “Any one of these principles, taken alone, will lead you out of balance and into error. You are to hold all 6 of these principles in a reverent tension. . . . We like rules, formulas, and black and white prescriptions. Instead, the Bible gives complementary principles we are to hold in tension.”

  1. It is the joyful duty of those who have to share with those who have not.
  2. We live with radical generosity to others in response to Jesus’ radical generosity to us.
  3. The Holy Spirit must guide us as to which sacrifices we are to make.
  4. God provides for His people richly and delights in our enjoyment of His material gifts.
  5. Don’t trust in riches and don’t define your life by the abundance of your possessions.
  6. Wealth building is OK.

I commend the whole post for your consideration and edification.

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July 07 2010 04:00 am | Blog

2 Responses to “The Generosity Matrix”

  1. Bernie Andringa on 07 Jul 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    Excellent article by JD – thanks for posting the link. Did you catch the part about “drinking Folgers and never lattes at Starbucks”? Ouch!

    I struggle in this area also. On the one hand, I know that when I donate to a reputable third world relief agency, that the money is likely being used well and for maximum benefit – it’s just that I can’t see the results and there’s always that little bit of doubt in my mind. However, when I help a neighbor or fellow Christian with my time and/or resources, it’s more satisfying to see the results, not because it’s personally pleasing so much as you know for a fact that it was time and money well spent.

    Of course, you also have to be concerned about whether or not the person you’re assisting is really being helped or if you’re simply enabling them if he/she has some destructive habit that you’re unaware of and indirectly funding. How do you really know for sure without getting intimately involved with their personal life and finances? A big part of it has to be relying on the Holy Spirit to guide you (point #3).

  2. Drew on 08 Jul 2010 at 8:03 am #

    Good point Bernie, especially about getting personally involved with the people you’re trying to help. It might not mean getting involved in their personal finances, although it certainly could. The big idea is that money is not the answer, it’s a bandaid at best. The answer is a changed lifestyle.