Proverbs 31:20

She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.

I grew up in a home that was both generous and needy.  We had seasons of life in our family that we were the ones who needed a helping hand, and the Lord provided through so many wonderful people willing to be His hands and feet.  We had seasons where our home was full on the holidays with misfits my mom brought in to celebrate with us.  We learned to serve at the soup kitchen and give to charity, even though my mom was a single mother who had to work extremely hard just to provide for us kids.  I always admired that about my mom, the generous woman she was even though from an outside view, it didn’t seem like she had much to give at all. 

As young adults just starting out in our marriage, my husband and I did not have a lot to give either, it seemed.  There were even days when we would pay all the bills, purchase groceries, deposit into savings, and be left with just enough money in our account to get a tank of gas for the week.  I remember thinking there’s no way we can afford to be generous the way God calls us to be. Most young couples like us are doing their best to save for their future like buying a home, having a family, living debt free.  All the while working hard to make that future happen, leaving limited time or income for much else. It didn’t feel like I had much to give and I know as a woman doing her best to live up to Proverbs 31, generosity is required.

If I learned anything from my mom, it’s that I don’t need to have a lot to give to be generous.  The scripture does not say “She gives money”, or even “she gives time”.  It says, “she extends a helping hand” and “opens her arms”. (Proverbs 31:20).   Perhaps extending a helping hand in some cases does mean donating to charity, tithing at church, or volunteer hours.  But generosity is so much more than that.  Sometimes it simply means sharing a cold cup of water.  (Matthew 10:42). Generosity is sharing your love, and the love of Jesus, in all the ways that He did. 

“And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no mean lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42.

Jesus didn’t give generously in one specific way. Sometimes He gave advice.  Sometimes He gave a meal.  Sometimes He just gave his time as a friend.  When we share what limited resources we have with others, that is generosity.  Jesus was not a wealthy man from an affluential family with unlimited resources.  Yet somehow, he provided so many people with so many blessings.  He provided through his words, his actions, and his heart. 

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’”.  Acts 20:35.

We don’t need to have a lot to give a lot.  What resources do you have?  Do you have a skill that maybe another person lacks, that you can put to use to serve them?  Do you have an income that provides enough to share with a worthy cause or a person down on their luck?  Do you have time to spend serving those around you whether it be through volunteerism or simply being a friend?  Do you have connections or a network that may help someone else in need of those same connections?  Do you have lessons learned that you might share with someone else about to go through a similar circumstance?  Generosity is the art of sharing what we have, whatever that might be. 

Just like I mentioned that my own mom was the reason for me understanding generosity as a child, our own husbands may understand generosity because of who we are as wives.  Are we a reflection of Jesus to the world and to them?  This means we not only need to be generous to strangers, but also to those we know and love the most.  We need to be generous toward our own husbands.  After all, we would never want to fill everyone else up around us, leaving our husbands in need.  We don’t want to get so carried away in giving all we have to the world that we forget to give anything at home. 

This is where marriage comes in.  I am one with my husband, carrying each other through life and lifting each other up in faith. (Ecclesiastes 4:12).  I also respect my husband, just as God’s Word calls me to.  (Ephesians 5:33). This means if I want to give to charity, there is a discussion at home first.  Where do we give our hard-earned money to, why do we want to give, and how much?  If I want to spend time serving others, I ask my husband to give up his time with me for that to happen.  Or I ask my husband to join me.  But I do not leave my husband feeling abandoned so that I can make others feel loved.  The conversations we have surrounding how we are generous both keep us humble and grateful for the ability to share what we have with others, but also keep us centered and grounded in our marriage, never leaving the other feeling left behind. 

It wasn’t always this way in our marriage, especially not in the first six months.  I wanted to be the generous wife that Proverbs 31 calls me to be so much so that I was actually giving more to the world, and not enough to my marriage.  I was so used to giving at church or donating to a charitable cause with my “own money”, that after entering into marriage it took me a little while before thinking twice or having a discussion before swiping my card.   It wasn’t that I needed to ask my husbands permission, but I also did not want him feeling like an outsider in our marriage or that I was making decisions without him.  It is perfectly acceptable to discuss where we should spend our money, how, and how much.

“A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.” Proverbs 10:4.

My time management also needed to change when I was first married.  I like to volunteer to help when and where I can, not just for charity but also for people I love.  Once married this certainly cut into my time at home.  I have a friend who was going through a hard season of life the summer after my husband and I got married.  She was experiencing a breakup and it was not the amicable kind.  I was at her house day and night listening, talking, praying, and doing my best to be a friend.  It took my husband getting upset with me, something that does not happen often, for me to realize I was doing something wrong.  In my mind, I was being generous and that was something I thought he admired about me, right?  In his mind, I was abandoning him and setting him aside to put my friends before my marriage.  I learned that summer that even when it comes to be generous with my time, I need to have those conversations with my husband first.  Where I spend my time, how, and how much.

I have learned that even though God’s Word calls us to be generous, it does not call us to leave something lacking in our own marriage to do so.  My mom taught me this lesson as well. Although she was a generous woman, with not a lot to give, our home never ever felt it was lacking. We are not called to empty our bank accounts to give to charity, leaving no way to pay the bills.  We are not called to spend all our time serving others that we forget to serve our own husbands.  We are certainly not called to put our marriage on a shelf so that we can give our time elsewhere. 

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”. Luke 14:28.

So, be generous.  Share what you have, a little or a lot, with the world and be the hands and feet of Jesus someone so desperately needs.  Be the reason someone sees the light of God in this world.  That is what we are called to.  But remember to do it with your husband as your partner, being equally yoked in all you do, especially in serving the Lord.   

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