A Generosity Journey

It was right around 1999 as I was sitting in a meeting of senior leaders of our growing church in Minnesota when our senior pastor looked us all in the eye and made it clear that if we weren’t giving 10% of our income to the church, we didn’t belong on his team. I’m guessing I wasn’t the only person on the team who was squirming in my chair in that moment. I’m not convinced it was the right way to frame a discussion about what a generous spirit produces, but it sure got my attention, and God used it to great effect in my life.

I grew up in a family where the concept of tithing or giving the first 10% of income to the Lord through the local church was non-negotiable. My mom and dad, upon becoming believers, went from giving a few bucks every week to giving 10% without a flinch, and God honored their faith step by providing richly for our family. Don’t get me wrong – we ate cereal for some meals and things were tight in our family’s finances – but God always provided, and my mom and dad grew significantly in their relationship with Christ because of it.

Me – not so much. I recall a time in my early married life when I had multiple “tithe checks” written and in my desk, but never given. Instead, I needed new cars and other meaningless stuff that at the time of purchase were wrongly justified as ‘needed.’ With three small kids and both of us working full time, we got on the treadmill of comparison and chose to compete with those around us rather than surrender to God’s values and live the better life that was available to us.

We got on the treadmill of comparison and chose to compete with those around us rather than surrender to God’s values.

Regardless of what you may believe about the Bible’s statements on the tithe (giving the first 10%), it’s pretty hard to argue anything other than biblical teaching that everything we have is from the hand of God. It’s His, and we are His stewards of what He provides. Randy Alcorn, in his book The Treasure Principle, says it this way: “God owns everything. I’m His money manager.” As I read Randy’s book for the first time shortly after being challenged by our senior pastor, everything came into better focus. I no longer look at everything as mine, unearthed by my hard work and effort, with something owed back to God. Rather, I look at everything as His, including the gifts and talents He placed within me – 100% is His, not 10%.

I wish I could say that my faith in God’s provision took me from zero to hero immediately. However, we started looking at our income and our stuff differently in that season. We began to sacrifice in small ways – we started by doing something. As God blessed us financially with raises to our income, we gave more of those raises to Him than we kept for ourselves. We came to view the idea of a tithe as a starting point rather than a finish line.

Did God make us rich? Absolutely, He did! We enjoy more of the fruit of the Spirit precisely because we give away far more than others suggest that we should, and we have more than enough for today’s needs. At 60, my retirement funds are not what the experts tell me they should be…but it’s enough (or it will be, hopefully) to provide a modest retirement, should it be needed. We’ve made housing decisions which have allowed us to be generous in ways we never imagined possible. This was God’s leading for us in our lives and doesn’t in any way suggest that it should be God’s leading in yours. God’s leading is unique to each of us, and each of us responds to God’s provision uniquely, too.

Alcorn talks about living for the dot or living for the line. The dot represents the here and now of our earthly existence and the line represents eternity. He suggests that our hearts always go where we put God’s money; that heaven, and not this fallen earth, is my home. Why is it so hard for me to live for the line? It’s really a test of faith – do I really believe in the line? If I do, does it show?

Our hearts always go where we put God’s money.

The journey of generosity, especially as it is encountered here where we live, is pretty challenging. Don’t be afraid to be counter-cultural in this regard. Many of us are beyond needing to count on the Lord for our daily needs and instead are counting what we manage for our future, our comfort, our fun, our security, our kids. Though the Bible does in places encourage us to plan for the future, and we should; there’s a difference between planning for a future with no need for God’s provision and a future that is always dependent upon a God who promises to be with us in any situation – in times of much or little.

Do you yearn to take a massive step forward in your spiritual maturity? Do you sometimes wonder why it is that you’ve been in Bible studies and church services for decades and still feel like a spiritual teenager? For many of us, myself included, this is it. We’ve raised our standard of living and left our standard of giving way behind. We’ve gone from transportation cars to status cars, we’ve moved from houses that meet our needs to houses that satisfy every want (and we still want more), and we eat like kings in places that we could never afford when we were young and struggling – me, too. Much of this is not wrong or sinful (though it can be). But, apart from our daily dependence upon a God who has called us to more than comfort and comparison, we miss out on the countless blessings that come from living for the line.

Many of us have raised our standard of living and left our standard of giving behind.

How about you? Is your generosity with God’s provision more focused on the dot or the line? What does your checkbook and your investment portfolio tell you about your dependence upon God? I can tell you I am still unsettled about these things on a regular basis in my life, and it’s a daily journey for Sarah and me.

Final thought – I’ve had people look me in the eye and say that SBC doesn’t need their money, which to me is a gigantic exercise in missing the point. God calls you and me to a life of generosity in every area of life. My personal belief is that the church is the hope of the world through Jesus and that if your church isn’t worthy of that description and therefore the lion’s share of your financial generosity, you should find a church that is. Regardless, though, God doesn’t need your money to accomplish His plans – remember, He owns it all and His plans will be accomplished with or without you.

Scott Anderson


It’s time to shift our focus from the dot to the line, from temporary comfort to eternal impact. Join us in embracing a life of radical generosity and discover the blessings that come from living for the line. Are you ready to make a difference? View key takeaways from Randy Alcorn’s The Treasure Principle.