By Matt Rogers
It seemed foolish to take our infant daughter to the dentist—after all she didn’t have teeth. My wife insisted and, as a good husband, I complied. After examining our older children, the dentist turned to the baby and briefly investigated her little mouth. He was happy to see her (we were paying customers after all) and reminded us that it was never too early to start establishing good habits in her life. My wife said that he actually encouraged us to go ahead and begin brushing her teeth with a little brush and without toothpaste so that she would learn what brushing her teeth felt like.
In the same way, disciples of Jesus need to establish good habits from the outset of their walk with Him. It is never too early to begin training your heart in areas such as generous giving. If these habits are not intentionally established, they will often fail to develop on their own.
Here are seven steps towards building generous habits in our lives:
REFLECT ON THE GOSPEL MESSAGE
Paul anchors his exhortation for generosity in the person and work of Jesus, who “though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). The more we think on the glorious gospel the more our hearts will be generous as a proper act of worship. Spiritual disciplines often run in tandem—with growth in one area leading to corresponding growth in another area. As we read God’s word and pray, our hearts are reminded of the gospel and generosity is a natural outcome.
REMEMBER THE WIDOW
In order to establish giving habits early in your walk with Jesus, you will likely be giving at a season in life when you don’t have much to give. Be encouraged. God looks at the heart of the giver and not the amount of the gift (Mk 12:41–44). Giving a little when you don’t have much will set the stage for giving later in life.
LOOK AND LISTEN FOR NEEDS
Followers of Jesus keep their eyes up and their ears attentive to the needs God brings their way. In a fallen world there is no shortage of hurt and brokenness, so with the proper intentionality we can all see and hear abundant ways we can bless others through our generosity.
SERVE REGULARLY IN DIVERSE CONTEXTS
Work to build rhythms into your life that consistently give you the opportunity to serve others. This may mean buying extra groceries each week to make dinner for someone in need or serving in a local after-school ministry for inner city children. This definitely means untethering yourself from the constant ping of your cell phone and immersing yourself in the lives of others.
Find strategic ways to meet the needs you see as you serve others. This does not always mean that you write a big check (though it may). Often it will be something simple like buying someone lunch, picking up a few extra items at the store, or finding tangible ways to bless someone on special days, like birthdays or holidays.
WORK TO GET OUT OF DEBT
Discipleship should be holistic. Sadly, many Christians have never been trained to handle money and many are in oppressive debt that limits generosity. If this is you, find a mentor in the church who understands financial planning and can help you develop a plan to get out of debt and build generous habits into your life.
GIVE REGULARLY THROUGH YOUR LOCAL CHURCH
Membership in the local church is a joint commitment to steward our gifts and resources to promote the cause of Christ. As we give, we see God’s work through the ministry of the church and are encouraged that our meager investment, when combined with others in the Body, can have major impact. This, in turn, influences our generosity in all areas of life.
It’s never too early to begin living a generous life. Gracious, glad-hearted giving is a distinctive mark of a maturing disciple and a vital means by which churches are planted or revitalized, missionaries are sent, and men and women around the world see and hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Matt Rogers is the pastor of The Church at Cherrydale in Greenville, South Carolina. He and his wife, Sarah, have three daughters, Corrie, Avery, and Willa and a son, Hudson. Matt holds a Master of Arts in counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary as well as a Master of Divinity and a PhD from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Matt writes and speaks for throughout the United States on discipleship, church planting, and missions. Follow him on Twitter @mattrogers_
Originally posted at http://sendnetwork.com/2016/02/25/generosity-building-generous-habits/