Jon Swanson: Obstacles to Generosity

Creating a culture or becoming a biblically generous person will not happen until the limiting issues are properly dealt with. While giving financially was an expression of generosity, it is entirely possible for a person to give significant amounts of money and still not be generous biblically speaking. The right heart motive behind the gift is the most important aspect of giving. Wrong heart motives are traced back to the root sin of pride and pride’s favorite companions: fear, greed, selfishness, self-sufficiency, and self-absorption.

Pride is the number one obstacle to the expression of biblical generosity in a person’s life. Pride reaches into the deepest and most unsuspecting place of a person’s life. Ultimately, pride stands in the way of a person fully surrendering to Christ. Without surrendering to God, one will never tap into Christ’s power to live generously for the benefit of others.

Pride keeps people from reaching up for help and from reaching down in charity. Pride entices people to exaggerate or lie for the sake of appearance or to gain public notoriety. Pride drives people to live beyond their means, to spend money they don’t have in hopes of impressing friends or feeding their own indulgences and vanity.

While pride drives some people to overspend on themselves, fear urges others to hoard resources, to worry about the future, to think only of themselves. Greed, like fear, leads to an unhealthy attraction to material possessions. In many cases, like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), Achan (Joshua 7) and the ancient Israelite community (Malachi 3), greed results in the embezzlement of funds. In all three biblical instances the financial embezzlement was equated with the most detestable forms of wickedness.

Selfishness is evident by excessive focus on personal needs. Selfishness looks only to its own interest. It expects to be repaid and rewarded for any gesture of pseudo generosity given. Selfishness is predominantly visible through pettiness.

Finally, self-absorption steals joy and destroys friendships. An unhealthy obsession with one’s emotional, physical, and spiritual needs leads to people blindness: self-absorbed people cannot see the poor, impoverished, or needy person living next door. The systemic problem of self-absorption is most evident when the poor in the community are being neglected.”

Jon Swanson in a paper entitled: “Biblical Generosity in the Local Church” (Stewardship Summit 2015) 6-7.

Swanson provides candid coverage of the sins in our lives that hinder generosity. The Apostle Paul uses similar language stating that these sins represent the fruit of the flesh in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). Join me in praying this prayer in response.

Father in heaven, please show us by your Holy Spirit where pride, fear, greed, selfishness, self-sufficiency, and self-absorption have taken root in our lives. We repent of these sins. Forgive us in your mercy. Help us instead, each day, keep in step with the Spirit so that the fruit of the Spirit, including generosity, are evident in each of our lives. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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