Winston Churchill once said, “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.” Churchill was a great leader, and what he said about giving really drives home the point of what I think generosity can be: a lifestyle.

Lifestyles are defined as typical ways of living and there are probably as many different lifestyles as there are people. I’m not advocating a vow of poverty or putting your family at risk. I’m not for having so much stuff on hand that your home looks like a department store or a hoarder. What I am talking about is thinking of others “as you go. ”When you are at the store and find products you can get for free, but wouldn’t use yourself, could you get them to donate?

Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. Isaiah 58:10

When I teach my Faithful Provisions workshops, I often share about an experience I had and how it impacted a young, homeless mother in recovery at the Nashville Rescue Mission. The rescue mission is a place where men and women come in from the cold, get clean, and learn new life skills. I was going to teach a coupon class for the women and brought some extra toiletries to donate. One of the items was something
I didn’t need and had considered not buying in the first place. Even after I brought it home, I considered throwing it away, but the thought occurred to me that maybe someone could use it, so I put it in the box with the other items. When the workshop was over, all the women picked items from the box. One woman picked up the item I almost didn’t buy. This young mother was so thankful to have it, she came up to me after the workshop to tell me how great it was to have it. I realized then, that even the smallest of things can make a big difference in someone else’s life.

What Is Living Generously?

To me, living generously is:

  • using your God-given ability to help those in need
  • where your time, money, and talents come together to meet the needs of others
  • something you can practice all year long, not just at Christmastime

If you have received salvation from Christ, you have been given the gift of eternal life from God. So, in a very fundamental way, you have already been shown great generosity. The least we can all do is use these gifts to help others in need. Some have more material resources to pull from, some have time, and some just have a big heart. Others have unique talents that can benefit people. No matter what the gift, being generous with your gifts is the key.

So let’s look at three main components of living generously: time, money, and talents.

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and . . . your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:11

Generous with Your Time

Time is something we all have and spend. Many of us, me included, have spent it well at times, and have wasted it at other times. But, since we all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, why not begin to use some of it in a noble, fruitful way to benefit others?

Not because we have to, but because we want to. It has been said many times and many ways that time is an asset. Being generous with your time can be as simple as a phone call or e-mail of encouragement to someone who needs it. That simple act costs you very little but can make a big impact on the other person.

One way you can use your time generously is by picking up extra items at the grocery each week as you do your regular shopping trip. If you are already clipping coupons and searching for the best deals, take five more minutes to clip extra coupons for items you may not need or want but would be great donation items. For instance, we have pasta coming out our ears. But this week it is on sale again, and my coupons
make it less than ten cents a box. If I would just take a little extra time when I am doing my grocery planning, I can grab anywhere from five to ten boxes of pasta for under a dollar to donate. Think of how much you could help others if you do this every week.

“I use the money from one of my part-time jobs to buy healthy snack foods for the homeless teenagers that attend our high school. Living out of their cars or sleeping on friends’ couches, they are on their own for food outside of school hours. I like to think my snack packs full of peanut butter, raisins, cheese crackers, granola bars, etc., help them get through the nights and weekends a little easier. I always include a little note of encouragement with a Scripture verse to feed their souls too! ” — Julie

Now that is an example of not wasting time. Working more than one job and helping to provide healthy snacks for homeless teens is generous. I think my favorite part of Julie’s story is the “little note of encouragement with a Scripture verse to feed their souls.”

I know of another couple who babysat for free on a Friday night as a gift to several families during the Christmas season. We all know how busy that time of year is and how hard it can be to find a sitter. This was a great gift because it brought together about thirty kids in a safe environment to watch cartoons, face-paint, draw pictures, eat cookies, and watch child-appropriate movies while the parents got some shopping done. What a great picture of living generously!

Being generous with time can be helping a neighbor with yard work or sweeping the snow off their steps. It can be providing a meal to a single-parent family or volunteering with a local charity. I know one lady who used to take her magazine subscriptions to a local nursing home, along with all of her free toiletries. She would package them up in gift baskets and visit the residents’ rooms. Needless to say, she was the bright spot in their day!

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. — 2 Corinthians 9:7

Generous with Your Money

Generosity can come in many forms, but I think the first place we recognize generosity is in the form of cash. Most people think of generosity in terms of money, and that certainly is an expression of generosity. So turn that into your form of generosity easily by turning your savings into donations.

Earlier I talked about a paradigm shift in the way you shop. What about a paradigm shift in the way you think about giving? If you are saving money in the checkout line, you can form a plan to set aside some of that money to give away each month. You could use that money in any number of ways. Here are just a few examples of how this could look:

  • Sponsor a family by filling their pantry with your extras.
  • Contribute food to a local church or food bank.
  • Help support overseas ministries.
  • Give Angel Tree gifts at Christmas.
  • Fill an Operation Christmas Child box.
  • Participate in Toys for Tots.
  • Provide for men and women at area shelters.
  • Contribute to friends who are adopting orphans.
  • Sponsor people on mission trips.
  • Buy postage to send expired coupons to military families overseas.

Some of the items above we live out and many are ideas I have gotten from readers. Specifically, end-of-season sales bring great prices on everything from clothing to toys. Use these sales as opportunities to stock up on gifts for Angel Tree, Operation Christmas Child boxes, and Toys for Tots events. If you play the drugstore games, which frequently garner you free or inexpensive toiletries and cleaning items, use them to fill gift baskets for nursing homes, shelters, orphanages, or missionaries.

Generous with Your Talents

What have you been gifted with? What talents do you have? Can you play an instrument or sing? Are you good at accounting? Do you own a business that provides a valuable service? Are you an excellent couponer or a wonderful cook? There are many ways to give of your talents and many who can benefit from them.

Take your talents and give them back to God. I encourage you to ask Him what He’d have you do with what He gave you. How could you use your God-given gifts to give back to others? I don’t believe God gives us talents for ourselves. I believe he gives them to us so we can serve others and show them the love of Christ. After all, that is our job here on earth, right? It’s all about keeping it in perspective.

It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35

Excerpted from the soon-to-be-released book Saving Savvy: Smart and Easy Ways to Cut Your Spending in Half and Raise Your Standard of Living ... and Giving!  (September 2011, Worthy Publishing).

Kelly Hancock left a successful career in the corporate world to stay at home and raise a family. In the process of adjusting to a radical drop in household income, she discovered a treasure trove of secrets and strategies for saving money, buying smart and experiencing the joy of giving. She began a blog - FaithfulProvisions.com - that became wildly popular, receiving thousands of visitors each week. Kelly is now a frequent guest on radio and television programs. She and her husband, Bradford, have two children and live in Nashville, Tennessee.