The Holy Spirit empowers us to be generous. (Pixabay)

A Barna Group study found that about 1/2 of self-identified Christians prioritize others in their financial priorities and about 1/3 prioritize themselves. Barna labeled the first group as "Givers" and the second group as "Keepers."

Givers want to serve God or others. Specifically, they want to provide for their family (43 percent), give charitably (23 percent), serve God with their money (20 percent) and leave a legacy for others (14 percent). In contrast, Keepers focus on themselves. Specifically, they want to support the lifestyle they want (42 percent), to be content (37 percent), to be debt-free (16 percent), and demonstrate how hard they work (5 percent).

Barna then divided Givers and Keepers into generational groups. The greatest percentage of Givers can be found among Millennials (56 percent, 20-36 years old), and Elders (55 percent, 70+ years old). The Gen-X generation (37-52 years old) had the greatest percentage of Keepers (37 percent).

Compared to Keepers, Givers are more likely to be married, have children under 18 years of age at home, attend a weekly church service, be Protestants, say that faith is very important to their lives, and believe that God is actively involved in their lives.

Forty-seven percent of givers gave $500 or more last year, and 25 percent plan to give 10 percent or more. Forty-two percent of givers believe every member should financially support their church and 30 percent believe Christians should give 10 percent or more of their income to their home church. Only 30 percent of Keepers gave $500 or more last year, and 30 percent believe every member should support his church.

The dictionary defines generosity as a willingness to give time or money; to act unselfishly. Christians have an obligation to be generous. Our heavenly Father was generous to send His only begotten Son for each of us. Jesus was generous to suffer and die for our sins. The Holy Spirit is generous to continue to lead, empower and direct us even though our actions can sometimes grieve Him.

Generosity is primarily a heart thing that manifests in actions. Jesus indicated that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all or our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others as our self (Mark 12:30-31). When we act generously, we demonstrate our love for God and for others. Generosity is a trait of God, and we should emulate Him. Every believer should be filled with generosity.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came with fire, power, signs and wonders. He changed impetuous and fearful Peter into a bold, Spirit-empowered witness, His first sermon brought 3,000 souls into the kingdom—the first megachurch was born. But Pentecost is also known for bringing a Spirit of compassion and generosity into the lives of believers.

When the Holy Spirit came, He empowered believers to love in supernatural ways. In addition to obedience, fellowship, praise, signs and wonders and the fear of God, the early church was known for compassion. Believers sold their property and goods and distributed the proceeds to other believers according to their need. Through their acquired compassion, these new believers honored God and loved others as themselves. Today's believers should be filled with this same supernatural, God-type of love for others than manifests as action. The Holy Spirt fills us with the desire and ability to be generous.

All who believed were together and had all things in common. They sold their property and goods and distributed them to all, according to their need. And continuing daily with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:44-47a).

In today's culture, generosity is rarer that it should be—even in the church. But in His earthly ministry, the Lord took generosity seriously. He taught us to store up treasures in heaven instead of treasures on earth. He instructed that it is impossible to serve God and money.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in nor steal, for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matt. 6:19-21).

No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (Matt. 6:24).

A rich man came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. The young man asked, "Which commandments?" Jesus responded by listing the commandments regarding adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, honoring your father and mother and loving others as yourself. The rich young man said he had kept all of these, but asked "What do I still lack?" Jesus instructed him to sell all he had, give the money to the poor, and to come follow Him. The young man left sad. Jesus then told his disciples how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, but with God it is possible (see Matt. 19:16-26). Jesus takes generosity seriously.

The Lord has blessed all of us abundantly. He has graciously given us time, talents, skills, influence and treasures. We have the honor of being generous with the resources with which the Lord has blessed us.

"God bestows His blessings without discrimination. The followers of Jesus are children of God, and they should manifest the family likeness by doing good to all, even to those who deserve the opposite." —F. F. Bruce.

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