Giving, and the “Generosity Matrix”

There seems to be two extremes when it comes to how Christians view their relationship with their possessions. Perhaps the answer is a generosity matrix.

generosity matrix

Saving money and building wealth can actually increase your ability to be generous later. Jesus himself commends wise investment: for instance, in the parable of the talents, he praises the man to whom he gave five talents and who then turned them into 10. While there is no sin in building wealth, God is also looking at how you use your talents to serve him and others.

5. Treasures in heaven are better than treasures on earth.

Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19–20).

Having a lot of material wealth on earth is like possessing a bunch of Confederate money at the end of the Civil War. You know that soon all that currency is about to be worthless, so logic tells you that you should be trading in as much of it as you can for something you can keep.

All your stockpiled treasures here on earth are about to be worthless. You can’t take any of it with you to heaven, but you can send it on ahead by investing in people. When you realize this, you’ll stop asking, “How much do I have to give?” and instead you’ll ask, “How much of this can I go ahead and transfer into eternity?”

6. Look to God, not money, as your primary source of security and significance.

A lot of people give money first place in their hearts because they look to it for security and significance. In Matthew 6, Jesus says to find those things first in God.

When we do that, we’ll start to notice that God gets the first place, and sometimes even the biggest portion, in our budget. We’ll set limits on both spending and saving so we can invest in the kingdom of God.

We’ll live sufficiently and give extravagantly, rather than vice versa.

7. Follow the Holy Spirit.

Most of us are not quite sure what the Holy Spirit does. He’s kind of like our pituitary gland—we know it’s in there somewhere, and we know it does something important, but we don’t really relate to it.

But in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit is indispensable in guiding individual church members into what role they should take and what sacrifices they are supposed to make, and he does the same with us today. Otherwise, how are we supposed to ever know what God wants from us? The mission is too big for any one person.

There are a lot of worthy causes in the kingdom of God, and you should be sacrificially involved in some of them. As my friend Larry Osborne says, “Not everything that comes from heaven has your name on it.” God hasn’t called you to everything, and that’s why you need the Holy Spirit.

Like the others, this principle by itself is insufficient, because you can use it to justify a selfish lifestyle by saying, “Well, the Spirit isn’t putting anything into my heart.”

You have to join this principle to the other six, which means a generosity matrix. The Spirit only guides a heart that is overflowing with Christ’s love and eager to give to others as Christ has given to us. If that’s your heart, the Spirit will guide you.

So, How Much Should I Give?

Even after all these points, I know what you’re still thinking: Shoot straight with me, pastor: How much should I give?

We love laws and rules and boxes to check. I can’t give you any of those, but I can point you to God’s Word. While in the Old Testament the minimum was the tithe—and that’s a great place to start—the New Testament gives us these principles instead and focuses on our hearts.

So, the primary questions to ask are:

  • Is God getting your first and best? What does your giving say about what is first in your heart?
  • What does your money reveal about what you love and trust most and what kingdom you are living for?
  • Have you surrendered all of your resources to the Holy Spirit and listened for his voice?

If you take all seven principles into account, I believe you’ll find yourself living sufficiently and giving extravagantly. Use these generosity matrix principles as a road map as you let the Holy Spirit guide you toward radical, joyful generosity.


This edited version of the generosity matrix article originally appeared here, and is used by permission

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J. D. Greear
J.D. Greear, Ph.D., pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.