How gratitude fuels generosity

There’s no one better to talk to about the relationship between gratitude and generosity than our  ministry friend and former NCF colleague, Patrick Johnson. Patrick is the founder of GenerousChurch and has a passion to see a revolution of whole-life generosity flourish in churches and ministries. 

The Prayer of Agur
“Give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.”
Proverbs 30:8-9 NIV

Patrick recently surveyed over 20,000 U.S. Christians on their giving, and as he poured over the results he learned something important: the two biggest obstacles to living generously are fear and identity. Rich, poor, and anywhere in between, the survey data showed that believers all wrestle with the same insecurities: Are we going to have enough and be enough if we follow Jesus into this generosity journey? 

It’s no surprise that fear and identity are huge barriers to generosity. In the U.S., narratives of scarcity surround our culture and stoke fear that we must accumulate as much wealth as possible to secure a future of “taking life easy”. Modern marketing tells us that if we don’t have this car, 401k, or lifestyle, then we are not enough. 

“This mindset runs counter to the mental maps that Jesus gave us, which is the biblical narrative of abundance,” says Patrick. “The Bible tells us that Christ is enough, and that through our loving Father we have enough. That we can seek first the Kingdom of God and all of these things will be added unto me.” 

“Think about this,” challenges Patrick. “During His ministry, Jesus gave up all worldly possessions. The Son of God, who owned everything, became poor to walk the earth. He wasn’t getting rich in ministry – in fact, he was funded by a group of women who provided for Him with their own means (Luke 8:1-3). Yet when He spoke, He had this amazing abundance mindset because He knew who His Father was.”

Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid, little flock. Your father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. (Luke 12:32-33) God owns it all, and He has given us the role of stewarding everything He owns. God is also generous, which means He has given us the role of being generous sowers in His image. As we are faithful stewards, we can also be generous sowers. 

So how can we shift to a mindset of generosity as a joyful expression of gratitude? According to Patrick, by answering the following three questions: 

  1. Who is God? We must start by truly knowing who God is, and we only need to look at nature to believe He is a generous Father. If we think about how He provides for our daily needs and gives us a life we could have never dreamed up ourselves, we can see God’s generosity. We can walk with gratitude and without fear knowing God is enough and through Him we have enough.
  2. Who am I? If we believe God is a generous Father, then we believe He invites us into the joy of generosity by being His generous disciples. We are made in the image of Jesus to live gratefully and generously–to have an abundance mindset. If we chase the things of this world, we live a counterfeit life because we are hardwired to live in the image of a generous God. In Him, we are enough. 
  3. How do we live together? When we know who God is and are grateful He created us in His image, then we can live out who we are made to be, and that brings joy. When Jesus came to announce the good news of the Kingdom, it was one of sharing, community, and relationship. It was not a Kingdom of saving money so that we would be financially independent one day. Imagine what it would look like if we pour ourselves out for those around us in a generous way. We could truly change the world! 

In Proverbs 30, Agur asked God not to give him more than he can handle, either in wealth or poverty. In both cases, Agur was afraid that he might fail. There’s that fear and identity again. But what a precious, humble, relatable prayer, right? Agur knew who God was and wanted nothing to separate him from his loving Father. May we, too, know who our Father is, and generously sow all He has entrusted to us with joyful gratitude this Thanksgiving, and every day. 

Need ideas on how to show gratitude through giving? Check out NCF’s 2020 Giving Season Guide.