Generosity is one of those qualities we’d all like to have, but aren’t overly keen on developing as we know it will cost us. In this short book Michael Wakely, gives a Biblical overview of the subect of generosity. He starts with the character of God himself, a who created us that we might be able to enjoy him. He then moves on to consider the process of sanctification. If we are to become more like God, then we are to become more generous. Generosity is not just a mark of spiritual maturity, but human dignity.
The main thrust of the rest of the book is devoted to encouraging us and helping us to be generous with our finances. This includes making wise ‘lifestyle choices’ that enable us to give, and considering where our ambition lies. He takes a couple of opportunites to criticise the “prosperity gospel” that idealises luxurious lifestyles for Christians and is often manipulative in its methods of fundraising. There is a chapter on “extra mile living” considering the teaching in the sermon on the mount, and a good chapter on making excuses, using the church in Corinth as an example.
After establishing the need for generosity, the final chapters fill in some very practical details on how to go about it. This includes the values we need, principles of how to give, and the discernment of who to give to. He highlights the poor, the local church, and Christian mission / charity work as the three primary areas requiring our generosity.
Throughout the book there are helpful anecdotes and illustrations, but this is a book that bases its message on Scripture, and each chapter draws on Bible references to establish its main points.
Overall I would say this is an excellent book on a subject rarely written about, and is presented in a way that is challenging without being emotionally manipulative. It is full of practical advice, and its style and length means that it is accessible to a wide range of readership. Of course, with books like this, it is one thing to agree with the message, and quite another to put it into practise. In his bibliography at the end, Wakely says:
Giving is something that all Christians should be doing by regular habit, rather than becoming a subject of study. We should beware making ourselves experts on the theology of giving, without at least becoming a stumbling practitioner.
postscript: I’ve actually met the author of this book once, and he paid for my dinner, which was generous of him. (It was at his daughter’s wedding, who is a good friend of my wife)