I’m preaching on generosity on Sunday.

I can’t say I’ve ever studied generosity until now. I’ve thought about tithing, giving, and Christian responsibility, but not generosity per se. What I’m learning is exciting to say the least.

What I’m seeing is that in the New Testament, rules (the law) get replaced by virtues (godly character). The reason? There are several, at least.

1. First of all, laws don’t touch the heart, only our behaviour—and God says that if I give everything I own to the poor, but it’s not from a loving motive and posture, it’s worth nothing (a la’ I Corinthians 13:1-4). It’s heartless.

2. But secondly, when you set a law, you get exactly what you ask for… and not a dime more. Tithe 10%? Sure. I’ll figure it out, sign up for automatic withdrawl through the church office, set it, and forget it. Giving that way is more than just heartless, it’s thoughtless. I’m just doing my duty. And that’s all God gets.

When I was a youth pastor, we’d do two or three fundraisers per year. After trying a few different options, we discovered that lunches after church brought the biggest bang for our bucks. When we first started out, we tried setting a rule: $10 per person at the door. And guess what? We got it. Ten bucks a head. But not a dime more. A typical take home? About a thousand dollars.

But after a year or two, we tried the grace route, replacing a rule with an invitation called “freewill offering.” Meaning that technically, no one had to pay a dime. Or they could give two bucks a head. Or whatever they felt led to give. Know what? Our pot at the end of those fundraisers usually topped out at over FOUR thousand dollars!

Why? Because the rule ($10 a head) put people into autopilot mode. It put the generous givers into a heartless, thoughtless box. It gave our pot a ceiling. But the other route unchained the generosity of our people and enabled them to give more than we expected. Which is the definition of generosity: “readiness to give more than expected or strictly necessary.” Laws and rules, on the other hand, are always ONLY demanding what’s expected and strictly necessary. Rules rule out generosity by definition.

Generosity is a work of God’s Spirit. It’s not about guilt, compulsion, duty, rules, expectations, or anything like them. It’s about joy, joining God in his work, and responding to his voice.

Generosity is grace in action.