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Generosity Lessons from a Recovering Tightwad

By Jessica Brodie

I’m what you might refer to as a recovering tightwad. If you’re being nice, you might call me thrifty, frugal, or savings-inclined. 

I rarely spend money on myself unless there’s a practical or important reason. I embrace classic styles so I don’t have to buy trendy stuff year after year. And as a kid, I wasn’t exactly known for my generosity (just ask my sister).quote from Billy Sunday on decorative background

While a saver by nature, I know there are life experiences behind my money tendencies. I went through a long, financially scarce season. I remember what it felt like to be a single mom with two little kids on my last five dollars,  not knowing how we’d scrape by till payday.

There was a good reason why I held on tightly to my money—it wasn’t plenty, and we needed food on the table.

Yet years later, I was still keeping a firm grasp on my wallet.

Then Jesus, and His extravagant, inspiring, generous love, stepped in.

I’m not saying I heard Him tell me, “Stop being so frugal, Jessica.” But as my faith deepened and I became more in tune with the Bible verses I was reading each day, certain truths began to work into my heart.

There are all sorts of scriptures about money and generosity. I’d heard God loves a “cheerful giver” (from 2 Corinthians 9:7) since I was a little girl, though it never did resonate. I remember being touched and slightly horrified at the poor widow who gave her last two coins to the temple treasury, which Jesus said was worth more than any other sum because it was “all she had to live on” (Mark 12:41-44). But deep down, I thought the widow was foolish. Why give away her last two coins?

The verse that ultimately caught my heart and changed me forever was from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, when He told the crowd, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21 NIV).

In case we missed His point, Jesus next talked about how the eye is the “lamp of the body” (v. 22), indicating we must beware of focusing on earthly treasures, which are the path to darkness. And for those of us (like me) who still didn’t catch His larger meaning, He added, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (v. 24, NIV).

Ouch, I remember thinking as those words washed over me. Money wasn’t my master, was it? 

No, I reassured myself, being frugal was only about security. I was being cautious and wise to hold onto my wallet “just in case.” God, or that charity or church or person in a tough position, didn’t need “my” money—there were plenty of wealthy people who would be giving. Right?

My viewpoint was wrong. What I came to realize is that equating money with security and protection is just as wrong as bowing down and worshipping an idol, only instead of the Israelites’ golden calf or the Canaanites’ wooden carvings, my idols were paper, metal coins, and a healthy bank account balance. I was setting financial concerns over what I knew God wanted me to do: Tithe. Donate to that ministry. Hand over five dollars to that homeless man on the street corner. 

I wasn’t honoring God’s command to love others just in case I needed that money for myself.

There’s a reason Jesus talked about money more than almost any other topic in the Bible. He knew we humans often cling tightly to what we perceive as safe. He knew our faith in the world was, perhaps, larger than our faith in the extravagant and abundant providence of our Heavenly Father. 

There’s a reason Jesus talked about money more than almost any other topic in the Bible. He knew we humans often cling tightly to what we perceive as safe. He knew our faith in the world was, perhaps, larger than our faith in the… Click To Tweet

By hoarding my money, I was storing up treasures on earth. I needed to give up my firm grip on earthly concerns and focus on the eternal.

Today, I tithe from every paycheck. It’s not always easy, but I do it as an act of faith and because I know my gift will help someone, somewhere, because God will make certain of it. And if ever I’m asked for money and get that knee-jerk reaction to help “next time,” I force myself to stop, unclench my tight grip, and give what I have so someone else can benefit.

Giving has made me cheerful, for in giving, I have found an opportunity to exercise my faith muscles. I’m trusting God will use what I give to help someone else, as well as take care of my needs. He’s done it before, and I know He won’t stop now. That hope naturally brings joy and cheer within my soul.

This Giving Tuesday, examine your own heart. Are you feeling overwhelmed by requests to give? Are they making you feel sullen, distrustful, or worried? Is it making your “tightwad tendencies” run on overdrive?  Pray on these scriptures above, and see if you, like me, have made money an idol. Then set that idol free, and focus your heart on heavenly treasures. 


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