Earlier this year I spoke at the Clarus Conference in New Mexico, along with Wayne Grudem. At one of the sessions we talked about the topic of giving and generosity, especially related to the younger generations. I later received an email from Audra, age 27, who attended the conference and she has given me permission to share her thoughts with you.
At the conference you mentioned that younger generations tend to give less than older generations. Your thought as to why this was, was that the older generations were not doing a good job training up the younger generations in this area. I wanted to suggest a couple other reasons why I think it is that way. I'm hoping that older generations will find it encouraging.
The main one being that older generations have gone through (on average) many more trials than younger generations, and hopefully have come through the other side of them with an increased amount of faith, trust and dependence on God. This is what creates the increase in their giving. They have learned time and time again that God gives it all and it all belongs to Him. God gives and takes away, so there's no need to try to keep it anyway. If this is true then it must be true that if we have a growing relationship with Christ our giving will only increase as time goes on; regardless of our income increases or decreases.
Another reason I think that the older generations give more is because they grew up with less. I know this sounds like an oxymoron, but the younger generation has always had plenty and known that their parents have not. I think the younger generation lives in fear of not having as much. They've grown accustomed to having so much, being selfish, and getting what they want when they want it. Giving seems like something so impossible to do because wants and needs are blurred in the younger generation's eyes. They believe they deserve "good things" but the only "good things" they can think of are tangible, not eternal.
Not sure if you can figure out by my writing or not but I would be classified under the 'younger generation' group, as I am 27. I am a widowed single mom whom God has blessed richly in providing for me and my/(His) son. I am constantly striving to give more because I have been given so much. I never feel like I can give enough. Part of the reason for this (I think) is because I have been focused on being a good steward of the money but not of the time that God has given me. Because God has blessed me so richly I only work part time and I'm able to home school my son. I must confess I have not been a good steward of the gift of time that He has given me with my son. I have become so distracted with being a good steward of the money that I lost focus of the other gift He gave me to be a good steward of, time.
I hope this encourages you and others.
Love in Christ,
Thanks, Audra. I believe we should be raising up a generation of givers, not keepers. But the next generation is growing up amid—and inheriting—vast wealth. Many have no tradition of giving, no vision for investing in eternity, no sense that God’s purpose for prospering them is not so they can live in luxury, but so they can help their churches, aid the poor, and reach the lost.
Every statistic I’ve seen indicates that the younger a person is in America (people old enough to have at least some resources), the less they tend to give. This isn’t merely less in total amount (that would be attributable to less income), but less in proportion to what they have.
What an indictment on us as parents and churches that we are failing to train our children to give. One of the best things we could do for them would be to instill in them the giving habit. Giving shouldn’t be an add-on elective to the spiritual life; it should be a required course at the very core of life’s curriculum.
We love because God first loved us. Likewise, we give because God first gave to us. Grace is inseparable from giving. God’s grace is the lightning, our giving is the thunder. The more we are touched by God’s grace, the more we will give. The less we give, the more it demonstrates we are untouched by God’s grace. That’s one of the reasons why giving is so critically important.
Many people who want their children to develop hearts for God overlook the one thing that Jesus explicitly says will move our children’s hearts toward heaven—giving (Matthew 6:19-21). Children who are not taught to give—by their parents’ example, family discussions, and personal guidance—are hamstrung in their ability to live for Christ. This generation must be shown the joy of giving and taught the discipline of giving. In order to enhance their giving, they must also be taught to avoid debt and control spending. Our duty to our children is clear: “Bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
By the way, I have a new book coming out in February, called Managing God’s Money. (It's available for preorder on the EPM website.) In it I address this and many other issues. It’s a little over twice the size of The Treasure Principle, and much smaller than Money, Possessions and Eternity, but covers some of the same ground in a shorter form. It also contains new material not found in either of the other books.
Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.