I recently led a survey of more than 20,000 U.S. Christians about their giving. Pouring over the results, I learned something critical: the two biggest obstacles to living generously are fear and identity. The data showed that all believers, whether they are rich or poor, wrestle with these same insecurities.
By Patrick Johnson
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 a certain car, a 401k, or particular lifestyle, then we don’t have enough.
This mindset runs counter to the mental maps that Jesus gave us, which is the biblical narrative of abundance. The Bible tells us that Christ is enough for us and that, through our loving Father, we have everything we need. We can seek first the Kingdom of God and know that what we need will be provided.
Think about this: 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.
“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”
Jesus compassionately urged his followers not to fear. But it was not empty encouragement. The reason they didn’t need to fear is that their Father owns everything. That’s why Jesus could tell them, “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).
Our Father owns everything, and he has given us the role of stewarding all of it. And he’s 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 … without fear.
How do we shift (or maintain) a mindset that leads to fearless generosity?
Here are three questions that can help
- Who is God?
Knowing who God is has to be the first step, and we only need to look at nature to see he is generous. If we think about how he provides for our daily needs and gives us a life and a world full of wonders we could have never dreamed up ourselves, we will see God’s generosity. We can walk with gratitude and without fear, knowing Jesus is enough for us and, through him, we have enough.
- Who am I?
If we believe God is a generous Father, and that we are made in his image, then we must believe that we are invited to reflect that generosity too. He shares the joy of generosity with us, making us his generous disciples. We are made in the image of God to live gratefully and generously – to live with an abundance mindset. If we chase the things of this world, we live a counterfeit life, because we are hardwired to reflect the image of a generous God. In him, we are enough.
- How can we live together?
When we know who God is and are grateful that we are created 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, one day, be financially independent. Imagine what it might look like if we poured ourselves out for those around us in a generous way. We could truly change the world for good!
In Proverbs 30:7-9, a wise man named Agur prayed that God would not give him more than he could 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. Agur knew who God was and wanted nothing to separate him from his Father’s love.
May we, too, know who our Father is, and generously sow all he has entrusted to us with joyful gratitude every day.