Do you know someone that has a generosity of spirit that’s so obvious everyone knows it? They bless people they come in contact with, sometimes by their mere presence. They give so generously of their time, talents and money that at times it looks extreme.
Ever wonder how they got that way? How does someone get to the point where their spirit of generosity spills over like a fountain into other people’s lives? It’s not natural or everyone would be doing it. What sets these generous people apart from the rest?
The easy answer is that somewhere along the way they have come to value giving. Giving is not a uniquely spiritual concept as anyone, religious or not, can choose to be a giver. However, giving is one of the central themes in the Bible when it comes to a person’s resources.
The Bible contains many examples of people who gave. The most obvious is Jesus who gave His life so people could come to a relationship with God. Other great givers include Abraham, the Good Samaritan, and Barnabas.
One giving story stands out though. It wasn’t one person, but a group of persons exercising a generosity of spirit that most would consider extreme. They gave above and beyond what was asked of them for a very special purpose. Here is their story and what we can learn from it.
The Ultimate Building Campaign
In the early days of the New Testament, God did not have a central location where he always met people. He connected with people as needed where they were. People didn’t routinely go to a specific place to worship or interact with God.
That was until the days of Moses. In the Old Testament portion of the Bible, as the Israelites moved through the wilderness area of Sinai on their way to the Promised Land, God told Moses to build him a tabernacle. Why? So that God’s presence could dwell among his people.
In Exodus 35, Moses laid out the vision God gave him for the tabernacle. He told the people the reason behind it and the benefits of it to them. And then he asked them to give up their possessions, talents and time to construct the building.
Did the people respond to his request? Did they ever! We read that –
“…everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting…They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart…” (Ex. 35:20-22)
Moses and the other leaders of Israel must have been thrilled with the people’s response. But what happened next they could not have anticipated.
Extreme Generosity of Spirit
When Moses called the people to give to the construction of the Tabernacle, he probably thought he’d have to ask again and again and again to get them to give enough. After all, it was a big project. And these people were notoriously stubborn and often exhibited a bad attitude in general about their circumstances.
But that is not what happened. In fact, the people’s giving exceeded Moses’ wildest imagination. It was extreme giving at its finest. It went like this:
“So they continued bringing to him freewill offerings every morning. Then all the craftsmen who were doing all the work of the sanctuary came…[and] spoke to Moses, saying ‘The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded us to do. So Moses gave a commandment…‘Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.’ And the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done — indeed too much.” (Ex. 36:3-7)
That’s remarkable giving! The people’s response stunned the workers. They had too much material to do the work, so much so that Moses ordered the people to stop giving! Think that would happen for any modern-day church building campaign?
The people put an extreme priority on giving. Their spirit of generosity led to the completion of the Tabernacle and God’s presence filling the structure. The goal was reached and the people were blessed.
But how did they get there? What drove them to give at such levels? And what is the takeaway for us today?
How to Have a Generous Spirit
What drove the people to give in this way? There are three big takeaways that stand out for us from the text.
They heard and believed in Moses’ vision
In order to have a spirit of generosity, one has to first see the need and believe in the vision. This is an exercise of the mind. You hear about a need, you process it, and you understand it’s value to you and others.
Sounds simple enough. However, too many people focus on their own world. They get wrapped up in their affairs and don’t see that needs exist. And they cannot catch the vision in their mind for why they should give in the first place.
Israel understood the importance of this project. Moses made sure they knew their “WHY?”
But knowing about the need isn’t enough. Something else must happen for extreme generosity of spirit to occur.
They allowed their hearts to be touched by the need
It wasn’t enough that the people knew the need. They had to invest emotionally as well. And we see that happening in the text.
Exodus 35:20-22 says that the people’s hearts were “stirred” by Moses’ message. Something triggered their emotions, probably a realization of how much God loved them. Only a loving God would choose to live in the midst of the people.
Sadly though, too many people have unresponsive emotions and unresponsive hearts. Their hearts are dead. Not dead in the physical sense. But in regards to being touched emotionally towards someone else, their hearts are cold as ice.
How does the heart get that way? Many ways probably. If you recall, Pharaoh’s heart was so hardened and cold from pride, stubbornness and arrogance that he wouldn’t let Moses and the Hebrews go into the wilderness to worship. Even in the midst of the most devastating plagues ever, his heart wouldn’t soften.
Personal pain also hardens the heart. So does life tragedy, bitterness, anger, resentment and hatred. Many things can drive us to be cold emotionally and insensitive to the needs of others.
And when a person gets there, generosity of spirit does not exist. The heart is not stirred by the message, even if the mind sees the need.
They surrendered their will and acted
It took more though, than a mental and emotional experience for the Hebrews to give in this way. One thing remained. They still had to act.
And act they did, in a big way. But how? What was the final ingredient that drove their spirit of generosity?
It was being willing. They had to surrender their will to God’s will.
God wanted this construction project to happen. He could have snapped his fingers and created it himself. But he wanted the people’s participation and their buy-in.
And he wanted them to give willingly. Ultimately, we see that they did that. The word “willing” is used twice to describe their actions.
Now, were some in the camp unwilling? Probably. You can read in between the lines of the passages above and surmise that not everyone gave. Not everyone had a willing heart. Not everyone caught the vision and had their heart stirred to obey.
But this actually makes the generosity of those who did give even more extraordinary. Fewer people gave more resources than were expected. That tells us a lot about the spirit of generosity those willing to give had within them.
Secret Ingredient to a Spirit of Generosity
Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lords, and the fullness thereof, and they that dwell therein.”
Translation? Everything belongs to God. It’s all His.
Why? Because He created it all. He spoke the world into existence in 6 days. Every invention or innovation of mankind since the beginning of time, we owe to the creative and magnificent mind God put inside us. In short, nothing exists unless God allows it to be so.
So for the Hebrews, they were just giving back to God for this construction project things that already belonged to Him. He was allowing them to use it for their personal well-being and they felt so blessed, they wanted to honor God with their giving.
Perhaps that is the secret ingredient to an extreme generosity of spirit, realizing that we have nothing apart from God allowing it to be so.
Leave a Comment or Answer a Question Below: Who do you know that has a spirit of generosity about them? What helps you be sensitive to the needs of others? If you could give to one thing, what would it be?