Designed for generosity: An excerpt from Money in the Light of Eternity

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Designed for generosity: An excerpt from “Money in the Light of Eternity” by Art Rainer

September 18, 2023 -

Money spills out of an open white envelope against an orange background. By Jiri Hera/stock.adobe.com

Money spills out of an open white envelope against an orange background. By Jiri Hera/stock.adobe.com

Money spills out of an open white envelope against an orange background. By Jiri Hera/stock.adobe.com

Researchers have completed several studies on the relationship between generosity and happiness.

In one study, a group of adults were asked to rate their level of happiness in the morning.1 Afterward, they were given an envelope containing either five dollars or twenty dollars, along with one of two instructions for the day.

Some were told to use the money for themselves—to pay a personal bill, buy themselves a cup of coffee, or whatever self-focused spending they preferred. Others were told to use the money for someone else—to purchase someone’s food, pay their bill, or perform some other generous act.

The participants followed the instructions. During the day, some used the money to benefit themselves, and some used the money to benefit others. Later that evening, they were again asked to rate their level of happiness.

Those who used the money for someone else reported higher levels of happiness than those who used the money for themselves. Generosity produced higher levels of happiness than self-focused spending.

These results are not uncommon. Regardless of demographics, other studies have produced similar results.

In another study, individuals in Canada and South Africa were provided with the money needed to purchase a small goody bag.2 Like the participants in the previous study, recipients rated their initial happiness level and were given one of two instructions. One group was told to purchase a goody bag for themselves. The second group was instructed to purchase a goody bag for a sick child at a local hospital.

At the end of the day, the participants were again asked to rate their level of happiness. The results likely won’t surprise you. Those who purchased goody bags for a sick child reported higher happiness levels than those who purchased a goody bag for themselves. The outcome was consistent in both Canada and South Africa.

Studies like these remind us of what the Bible has been telling us all along: God is a generous God, and he has designed us for generosity, to reflect his character. In other words, God calls us to live and give generously because generosity aligns with our design.

We are made in God’s image. And though sin has distorted this image, it has not destroyed it. God is glad to be generous, and when we give, we experience gladness as well.

Recall the last time you gave sacrificially. Did you give to your local church? Did you provide funds for a homeless shelter? Did you financially support mission work in another country?

How do you think about that generosity right now? The memory likely brings back feelings of happiness or satisfaction—certainly not regret. Though we often regret past purchases, we rarely regret past generosity.

You were meant for more than a big house, fast car, nice vacation, and full bank account. You were meant for something far more significant and satisfying than tending to your own needs.

In the Gospel of Mark, we are introduced to a man who is often called the rich young ruler. He comes to Jesus seeking the path to eternal life. After the man insists that he has kept the Ten Commandments since his youth, Jesus says to him, “There is still one thing you haven’t done . . . . Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21).

Mark then adds, “At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions” (Mark 10:22).

An idol is anything we devote ourselves to or rely upon that is not God. This man wanted an earthly life marked by accumulating possessions, and he wanted eternal life in the end.

Like so many in our day, he was trying to love God and money—which is something Jesus taught is not possible.

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate the one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money” (Matthew 6:24).

Jesus knew not only how this rich man’s heart worked, but how every human heart works. A heart consumed with the desire for money and possessions cannot be simultaneously consumed with a desire for Jesus. One love must win out.

You may wonder why Jesus asked the rich man to give up everything. Simply stated, Jesus wanted to give him everything, which requires open hands. Following Jesus means being ready to do what he wants us to do and to go where he wants us to go. Hands clutching earthly riches will never be able to hold tightly to Jesus and the treasure that comes with following him.

The question is this: Are you willing to let go? God may not prompt you to give away every earthly possession, but are you willing to hold loosely the things of this world so that you can fully grasp the things of God?

Sadly, the rich man looked down at the ground, turned around, and walked away.

Let me encourage you to make a different decision and live paradoxically.

From a global perspective, most Americans are considered rich. You have more resources right now than most people in the world will acquire in their lifetime. In terms of global wealth, you are the rich young ruler.

In 1 Timothy 6:17-19, Paul instructs Timothy what to tell those who are considered rich in this world.

Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

Even with great financial resources, we are not to place our hope in money. Instead, we are to place our trust in God and be generous with what he has granted us.

The result of such generosity?

True life.

True life is not found in the acquiring of things, but in the sharing of things.

But if we want to experience true life, we must first let go.

It’s a paradox.

Hold loosely to money. Hold loosely to bank accounts. Hold loosely to cars. Hold loosely to houses. Hold loosely to vacations. Hold loosely to everything so we may hold tightly to true life.

You were created for something more. Your possessions were entrusted to you for something greater than your own comfort and security.

You know you were created for something more—more than a high-paying job, more than a big house, more than an expensive car, more than exotic vacations, and more than a fully funded retirement account.

You’re not surprised when you run into people who seem to have it all on the outside but are empty and unsatisfied on the inside. Maybe at this moment you’re one of them.

God designed us to live in a paradox. We may have much or we may have little, but with everything we are to be open-handed, ready to give freely and abundantly. When we hold our possessions loosely, we are able to grasp true life. It is then that we find ourselves fully engaged, contented, and on an adventure we never could have scripted. No matter the extent of your resources, you and your money were designed for eternity-shaping generosity.


Adapted from Money in the Light of Eternity: What the Bible Says about Your Financial Purpose by Art Rainer. Copyright © 2023. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Art Rainer is the founder of Christian Money Solutions. He writes and speaks widely about issues related to finance, wealth, and generosity. He is the author of The Money Challenge: 30 Days of Discovering God’s Design for You and Your Money. You can read and hear more from Art at ArtRainer.com.


1. Elizabeth. W. Dunn, Lara B. Aknin, and Michael I. Norton, “Prosocial Spending and Happiness Using Money to Benefit Others Pays Off,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 23, no. 1 (February 2014), 41–47.

2. Lara B. Aknin, et al., “Prosocial Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Psychological Universal, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 104, no. 4 (April 2013), 635.

More by Art Rainer

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