What does generosity mean?
At Passion City Church, we believe that “Generosity is normal.” But what does that mean, and how do you describe that to your eight-year-old? Or even your three-year-old?
A basic definition for any toddler to middle schooler could be that generosity means having a willingness to give or share with kindness in your heart. If you’ve ever had a toddler, you know the season of teaching them to share can be difficult.
I have a toddler at home myself. Imagine being in my shoes and asking him to share his favorite toy truck with a friend; what do you picture happening? If you imagine him holding onto his toy as I pry it out of his hands, followed by him sitting on the ground and crying loudly, then yes! That’s precisely what happens! He hasn’t yet learned that sharing is kind, and if he loves his friend and wants his friend to be happy, he should share his toy with him.
This reluctance to open our hands is a perfect example of what we often think of when it comes to our giving. As adults, we consider our time, money, and possessions so precious that when we feel we need to give some away, they must be pried out of our hands. Our hearts may not be in the right place, and we give because we feel like we have to.
But that’s not what God wants for us, and it’s not how He designed us to be.
He isn’t prying the money, time, or kindness out of our hands. We are invited to give it back to Him because He freely gave it to us. God wants us to trust Him, put all our confidence in His design, and pass that on to the next generation.
Here are a few helpful ways to do this with your children…
Go to the Scripture
In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul urges us, “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Paul is telling us that we, as Christ followers, don’t need to give under obligation. We get to choose in our hearts how and what we present. He says in verse 8, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” Encouraging your kids to give something away freely can be difficult, but the more you let them choose, the more rewarding it will feel for them. Try giving them an either/or option. “Would you like to give ____ or ____ this morning?”
Get on their level
Being cheerful is something that most children can understand. To be cheerful means to be “noticeably happy and optimistic.”
“Being cheerful is like that feeling you have when we climb on the monkey bars or ride on the slide!”
Your kids trust that the playground will hold them up; therefore, they are happy and optimistic, knowing they have no reason to worry or fear. They don’t have to focus on being cheerful in those moments; it just comes naturally.
In the same way, when we trust God will give us everything we need, generosity can come naturally. We can trust that when we give freely, God will hold us; He is the truest, most reliable structure. Ultimately our children are looking to us for security, to feel safe, and to have their needs met. When we teach our children and demonstrate with our faith that Jesus will always provide, they will feel free to be generous in that unique way that a child can be.
It comes naturally
We are recipients of the greatest gift ever known, and at no cost to us, we live freely, forgiven forever. All because of our Savior, who displayed generosity in its purest form. When we realize we cannot do anything alone and put all our confidence in God, giving back to Him what He has given us, we begin to fit into this natural mold of generosity.
Since generosity is more about our hearts than our possessions, we can help our kids understand that their attitude toward giving means more than what they give. It can be easy to focus on the monetary side of giving, but talking to your kids about generosity can lead to conversations about giving time, effort, kindness, and love. They are generous when they share their afterschool cookie with their sibling, and they are generous when they give their best effort on their group project, knowing that it will benefit not only themselves but those around them.
These are stepping stones to more significant generosity decisions down the road, like giving their time, money, or possessions to the Church or someone in need. These things will come naturally when your children live in such a way to serve others and also realize that the blessings they have received are from God, and they are called to share His love.
Model it yourself
When we display this to our children, they notice. Giving is worship. It’s our lifestyle. When we model it for our children, they won’t think of it as just a time where we take out our wallets and drop money into the bucket, although that can also be an important moment. When you discuss generosity with your kids and the heartbeat behind it, and when they witness you give your money, energy, time, and talents to others, they won’t see it as an obligation. They’ll see it as part of life.
Giving of our time, resources, and talents can be a sweet way to spend quality time together. Are you great at reading and telling stories? Find a shelter or a nonprofit where you can read to children, and bring yours along to participate! Find a local place where you and your kids can serve food, play games, pack boxes, and help other kids with their homework… There are many ways you can serve together inside and outside the Church. Talk about how this is being generous. For example – instead of staying home and playing video games, they give their time and talents to others who are blessed by it! It’s great for children to learn this at an early age and to know that no gift is ever too small in the Kingdom when it comes from the proper heart posture.
They can handle it!
When teaching children about things that seem to be a bit over their heads, we can trust that the Holy Spirit will intercede and help them understand more than we think they might in our strength. That being said, trust that God is faithful and He knows your children the best. He knows each hair on their heads, and He knows their thoughts and understanding. We pray that your children’s hearts will be filled with all hope, joy, and love of Jesus as they grow in who He has called them to be and come alongside the idea that generosity is normal.