God calls us to be generous. But what if you’re broke, barely making it through each month? Can you be generous when your bank account is hovering on empty?
The Bible tells us to make giving the first priority of our financial life, and we are to give even when money is tight. The widow in Luke 21 provides a clear illustration of this.
Unfortunately, while many people strive to be generous, they find their financial situation limiting them. Right now, 78 percent of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck, and 40 percent are not able to pay an unexpected $400 expense with cash. We don’t have margin in our finances. This certainly impacts our financial generosity. The lack of margin in our finances hinders our freedom to give to our church and others as we desire. Bills must be paid.
So how can generosity abound in our own lives when we have little money to give?
First, we must remember that generosity is not related to any specific number. The widow only gave two coins, and Jesus said she was the most generous person in the room. In God’s economy, amount sacrificed always supersedes amount given. He cares more about what’s still left at home than what’s in the offering plate.
Second, we must remember that while God provides us with financial resources, he also provides us with everything else in our possession. Money does not monopolize generosity. The Bible tells us we are to use all our possessions—time, talent and treasure—to advance God’s Kingdom. We are to be generous with everything.
So here are some suggestions on how to be generous, even when you are broke.
- Serve at your local church. The church is God’s tool to reach every tongue, tribe and nation with the gospel. While you should financially give to your local church, don’t miss the opportunity to use your time and talents there as well. Churches have endless volunteer needs. Find one and plug in. Join the greeting team. Volunteer in the kids ministry. Lead a small group. Be generous to your church.
- Have people over to your home. God has given you a place to call home. You may live in a house, townhouse, condo or apartment. Whatever you live in, leverage it for advancing God’s Kingdom. Have people over. Split the cost of some pizzas. Have everyone bring their favorite dish for a pot luck. Allow your home to be a gathering place and show the love of Jesus to whomever walks through your front door. Be generous with your home.
- Donate unused items. Most of us have way too much stuff. We have collected clothes and other items that we simply don’t use anymore. Look in your closet. Do you see clothes that you haven’t worn in two or three years? If so, give them away. Give the items directly to someone who will use it or donate it to a local non-profit. Be generous with unused items.
- Send handwritten notes of encouragement. In the digital age, a handwritten note stands out. There’s something about a handwritten note that carries a greater significance than a text or an email. Find a pen and paper. Tell someone why you are grateful for them. Use your words to lift someone up and encourage them. Be generous with your words.
- Say “yes.” Most generous people I know are not just generous with their money, they are generous with their time. They listen for opportunities to serve. And when they arrive, they say “yes.” They have a serve-first mentality. They put others before themselves. Make your default answer “yes” instead of “not now.”
The Bible tells us to be generous with our money. We are to be like the widow in Luke 21 and the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8. We are to give sacrificially. But generosity is not limited to our finances. Biblical generosity extends to all areas of our lives.
If you feel that your financial situation hinders your generosity, work on your finances. Get out of debt and find ways to increase your financial margin. And in the meantime (and even after you obtain financial health), be generous with everything else God has given you. God has designed you for generosity. You can be broke and generous.
Art Rainer is the author of The Marriage Challenge, The Money Challenge and the forthcoming kids series The Secret Slide Money Club. He also hosts a growing podcast called The Money Challenge.