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You’re Probably Not As Generous As You Think

You’re Probably Not As Generous As You Think

According to my colleague Dr. Christian B. Miller, a philosopher who recently published an insightful book, The Character Gap: How Good Are We?there are three criteria that our actions must meet in order to be considered generous:

  1. Is there evidence that the gift was important to the person, that she cared about it in some way?
  2. Does the person tend to give even when external rewards, such as publicity or tax benefits, do not come into play?
  3. Does the person seem to be donating out of a sense of obligation, or is this a free gift of money or time that she could have used in other ways?

You can read the full article here. He’s written in greater depth regarding this topic, and published what he thinks to have been just the fourth scholarly article on the virtue of generosity in a philosophy journal since the 1970’s. So, without going into all the nuts-and-bolts-and-footnotes, I have a question for you:

Consider the third point: A person cannot donate out of a sense of obligation or the gift is not generous. In philosophical terms, the gift must be supererogatory, that is, it must go beyond the call of duty. The gift cannot simply meet the required level expected. So, for those Christians who espouse the doctrine of tithing – to donate 10% of one’s income to the church – can this gift be considered generous? Or, for those who tend to give the same amount on a regular basis, having established a norm for giving, can the next gift of the same, personally expected amount, be considered generous? To put it even more plain: Can any person who ever gave any gift as required by Old Testament Law be considered generous?

What do you think?

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Tommy Brown

Tommy Brown is a writer, speaker, and develops strategies that support financial development. He and his wife Elizabeth live in Winston-Salem, NC along with their children Seri and Seth. He served in leadership at two churches as an ordained minister from 2001-2014, leading congregations into financial wellbeing and a holistic approach to integrating faith and finances. Tommy has a B.A. in Pastoral Ministry and Masters degrees in Divinity and Management. His entrepreneurial endeavors over the years have extended into real estate development and church consulting on stewardship matters. Now, Thomas works alongside an award-winning team of storytellers at Wake Forest University, performing strategic planning and project development for initiatives that fund the university¹s $1,000,000,000 capital campaign. Thomas was instrumental in forming Wake Forest University's financial wellbeing initiative. He has a heart for seeing churches, students, and people of faith form connections between faith and finances.

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