Generosity is a peculiar topic. Whenever it comes up, especially in church, things get uncomfortable in a hurry. The question begins to crop up in our minds: “Am I giving enough? How do I know I’ve given enough?” And if the pastor lays it on thick—telling us all about the overwhelming number of poor unfed orphans in India while we fat, disgusting, overfed Americans waste our money on luxuries—we become pretty convinced that we aren’t giving enough. The greater the sense of the need, the greater our sense of guilt.
I’ve always found it telling that in one of Paul’s most majestic passages about generosity, 2 Corinthians 5:13–21, he doesn’t drum up donations by beating people over the head with guilt. Instead, he applies the gospel in three distinct ways: