Lately I’ve been hearing Holy Spirit whispers. Do you ever hear those? I know them because they are generally out of the blue and have nothing of me in them. And if I’m paying attention, they make me sit up and listen. Now, this isn’t to say that every stray thought that comes out of the blue is from the Holy Spirit. His whispers are persistent and tend to have a theme. And they always align with the Word of God. I once heard a lady inform me that the reason she no longer attended Bible Study, read her Bible, or went to church was because she heard God tell her she should spend more time with her family instead. While I don’t doubt that spending time with her family was a good and noble endeavor, I do not believe that the Holy Spirit would tell her to give up meeting with other believers or to stop studying His Word. Hebrews 10:23–25, among many other Scriptures, make that truth plain.
The whispers began one afternoon as I was writing. “Be generous.”
The conversation began in my mind: “Generous?”
“I think I’m pretty generous in giving to various missionaries and organizations. What more should I give, Lord?” I recognized His voice by this time.
“Be generous in your writing.”
“No. Write truth in love, not to share opinions or to be heard, not to sound knowledgeable or to receive a pat on the back. Write to encourage in truth, to edify, not with your purpose, but with Mine. Be generous.”
That made me think.
Days later, I was talking to a friend and feeling extra chatty when I heard the admonition again.
Again I asked (inwardly), “Generous?”
“Be generous in your conversation and generous in listening.” I understood that one right away—I realized I had been giving a monologue and suddenly felt embarrassed. Curtailing my story, I asked my friend about her life. Listening, I realized she had a true burden. Concerned as I was, after several minutes I heard the clock ticking in the back of my mind. My To-Do list loomed large. But again, I heard the whisper: “Be generous with your time. To-do lists will wait. Be generous.”
The ongoing conversation with the Holy Spirit started me thinking. Webster defines the word generous as “having or showing willingness to give or share freely, lacking pettiness or meanness, magnanimous, abundant, copious…unselfish.” This added new dimension to my understanding of generosity.
In my Bible reading, I began to see generosity everywhere. It is not always named, but in action and in attitude, willing and cheerful giving is thoroughly encouraged throughout Scripture.
My Thursday night Bible study is studying what it means to live a life “Poured Out.” We were discussing our rights (our felt rights to be heard, to be appreciated, to our opinions and preferences, etc.) and the truth that we are called to give up every one of those rights and entrust ourselves fully to Christ. As I studied my homework that week, another truth came bubbling up as the Holy Spirit whispered again: “Pay attention. This is generosity.”
In Romans 12, Paul lays out the pattern for believers living as transformed, renewed children of God. In verse six he talks about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, given to believers to build up and strengthen the Body of Christ. With each gift, he urges his readers to “exercise them accordingly” (v. 6). Not haphazardly, not with grumbling, not casually—when you get around to it—but “according to the proportion of his faith…with liberality…with diligence…with cheerfulness.” I don’t think I’m overstepping here to say that this beautifully describes a generous spirit: a person who, in faith, serves others with liberality, diligence and cheerfulness—in whatever they do.
He continues in verses 10–13: “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” This is not the description of a person who is stingy with their love. This is generosity spelled out…and it’s not a suggestion. It’s a way of life for every believer in Christ who is sealed by the Holy Spirit!
Now, in full confession, I am a “thrifty” person by nature. It’s how I was raised. And that thriftiness (some have rightfully called me “cheap”!) has, in some ways, extended beyond my wallet. I am not always devoted to my brothers and sisters in Christ—I have always been ruled by the clock. My devotion and care for others is likewise ruled by the clock. I have often sought my own glory and honor, my own comfort and preferences. Being fervent, persevering, that takes a lot of work!
As I read, it became clear to me that living generously is more than simply writing a check to a good cause. It is intentionally choosing to love unselfishly, and it is not accidental. It requires energy, and I don’t always have a lot of extra energy. Can you relate?
“Lord,” I cried out. “I can’t do this.”
The Holy Spirit spoke and I felt a gentle stirring. “I know. You can’t do this. On your own you will burn yourself out and become bitter and tired and resentful. But I am your source and I never run dry. I AM love. I am all you need to accomplish what I’ve asked of you! Loving others generously requires only your cooperation. Allow Me to love through you. I will provide the energy. Follow My lead without hesitation or fear. Let Me be generous through you. Be generous.”