Many are talking about the Giving USA report that was recently released. Most people who read these figures see charitable giving in current dollars climb slightly higher year over year and conclude that we should celebrate the growing generosity of Americans.
A closer look, however, reveals that our efforts to encourage greater levels of generosity may not be working in our generation after all. Giving USA shows that Americans gave 2.1% of the gross domestic product 40 years ago and the most recent pegs giving at 2.0% of GDP. Collectively, we are not allocating more of our resources to charity. We are not becoming more generous.
We must also realize in times like these that God is not interested in our country’s giving. He’s interested in our personal stewardship. After exploring numerous Scriptures, Randy Alcorn adds: “God makes it apparent that it is His business to watch us with intent interest to see what we do with the money He has entrusted to us. We are being tested and what we do with our money will influence the course of eternity.”
Have you ever taken a moment to consider how God sees your giving from His eternal perspective? In God’s eyes, giving is a spiritual matter and faithful stewardship represents a lifestyle of obedience. In my book God and Your Stuff: The Vital Link Between Your Possessions and Your Soul, I suggest that there are three eternal purposes for all we possess on earth.
(1) God provides you with possessions as a tool to bring others to Christ.
Wise stewards assess all the possessions entrusted to them to determine if they are being used wisely as tools to draw people to faith in Jesus. What do you possess: a home, one or more cars, clothing, stocks, and/or other stuff? How are you leveraging these possessions to glorify God?
(2) The stuff entrusted to you is a test of who is Master and Lord of your life.
We cannot serve both God and money, and God knows our attitudes and our actions better than us. Can you provide examples of how you use God’s stuff to demonstrate that God’s eternal kingdom is your highest priority?
(3) How you use possessions indicates your trademark.
One of the most visible signs of our values is our stuff. As your neighbors, friends, or others look at your life, what brand or trademark do they see? Is it clear from how you use your stuff that you value your home in heaven more than your stuff on earth? What specific evidence is there from how you use possessions that your trademark is that of a Christian?
In light of how God sees our earthly stewardship, let us together as steward leaders align our lives more closely with His eternal perspective using that which He has provided as a tool to advance His Kingdom. Let’s do this because this test reveals our allegiance. The best way to inspire others to grow in generosity is to have that trademark ourselves.
Wesley K. Willmer, Ph.D., serves as Senior Vice President at Prison Fellowship Ministries. He has authored and edited numerous books and articles linked to this topic such as God and Your Stuff: The Vital Link between Your Possessions and Your Soul.