“I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.” (2 Corinthians 8:8 NIV)
For most people in the West, being rich is a foreign and uncomfortable idea. We don’t think we are rich. But if you make at least $20,000 a year, that puts you in the richest 4 percent of the world’s population. And when you have money, your heart will naturally become attached to it.
In Mark 10, Jesus challenged the rich young ruler to sell all that he had because his heart was trapped in an attachment to his things. He was unwilling, and after he left, Jesus followed up by saying, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25 NIV).
The analogy is clear: a camel will not fit through the eye of a needle—ever. Every single person with money is going to develop an unhealthy inner attachment to things. And you can’t set yourself free. So, what are we supposed to do? How do we live our lives fully attached to God rather than to things?
Right before Jesus challenged the rich young ruler, the Scripture describes one critical, often-overlooked fact. “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (Mark 10:21).
Before the young man had obeyed or disobeyed, before he had had the opportunity to trust, Jesus already loved him! The one truth that changes everything else is the truth that the posture of God’s heart toward you, right now—is love! And the revelation of God’s love reorders the priorities of the heart. When you are deeply convinced, through the evidence of the cross, that you are loved by God, the spell of money is broken, and you can trust God with all that you have. This powerful change of heart grows in us as the gospel takes root, and it is proven through a life of radical generosity.
In 2 Corinthians 8, the apostle Paul shared the story of the church of Macedonia, who were brand-new Christians and extremely poor, and yet they desperately wanted to give! Their hearts had been changed by the love of Christ, and the natural outworking of that change was the tangible giving of their money.
Paul stated it bluntly just a few verses later when he addressed the Corinthian church:
"But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others." (2 Corinthians 8:7–8 NIV)
Consider the implications of what Paul wrote. First, he said that these Corinthian Christians were growing spiritually, but they had some work to do in this area of money. He said their generosity was an accurate test of the sincerity of their love. You cannot claim to love God and then not practice radical generosity.
Scripture outlines three principles of generosity that we can use to reshape our hearts in God’s image: priority giving, percentage giving, and progressive giving.
Priority Giving: God teaches us to trust him by commanding us to give first (Matthew 6:33). When we give last, after all the bills are paid, there is no faith involved in the transaction. But when we give first, we are making a declaration to the world and to God that he is our source, our safety, and our provider!
Percentage Giving: Generosity looks different for every person. Jesus illustrated this truth when he noticed a woman in the temple giving her last two copper coins (Luke 21:1–4). He told his disciples that she had given more than all the rich people had because she had given all she had to live on. Jesus didn’t stop her from giving—even in her poverty! Each person must wrestle with the question, “How much would I have to give in order to detach my heart from trusting in things and attach my heart fully to God?” Scripture introduces the principle of the tithe (giving 10 percent of my income) as a starting place to teach our hearts to trust him.
Progressive Giving: Like all areas in your spiritual life, God wants you to grow and stretch over time. Progressive giving means that you regularly assess your standard of living and your standard of giving, inviting God into the assessment and allowing your heart to stay in a place of dependence and faith.
With these principles outlined, you are ready to incorporate habit 5 into your life.
Habit 5: Structure your life around priority, percentage, and progressive giving.
Father, you promise to provide for your children. But I have this tendency to cling to what I have. My heart forgets that I am the steward, not the owner. Make me a giver, like you. I choose right now to take the next step in the grace of giving. Guide me. Teach me to rely on you fully as the Lord who provides.