Is God Generous?

Hi friends,

This week, as part of my doctorate of ministry degree, I’ve taken an intensive course on fundraising.

One question has surfaced for me: do we experience God as generous?

Of course we know that God is generous. As James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Wow. Every good and perfect gift comes from God?

That’s generosity!

But do you experience God as generous?

If so, how?

For me, here’s the most important practice: thanking God for everything. As a way of life.

And of everything I am thankful for, I am most thankful that God has given himself to me. That God’s presence is with me all the time, everywhere.

That is the habit that teaches my heart that God is generous. How about you?


Your question really forced me to consider that our experience of God’s generosity is largely down to our perspective - essentially, do we choose to recognise God’s generosity? As you say, we know He is generous, but our day-in, day-out experiences easily lead us to forget that what we have all comes from God. It really is down to what sort of perspective we hold on things. Once in church, I heard a talk about tithing. The person speaking turned it around that really helped me see things from a different perspective. Instead of giving God a portion of our own money, we were encouraged to see all our money as God’s that we got to keep a large part of. I’m not sure how people will feel about that analogy, I can certainly see some flaws in it (they weren’t promoting avarice although it now sounds a little like they were!), but I remember it helping me at the time to recognise God’s generosity more rather than less. As I sit here considering the subject, I start to see everything around me with different eyes. I’m surrounded by gifts! That includes the people in my life, my time, my work role, my finances, my stupidly large bookshelf, everything.


Hi Carson,

To experience generosity through God’s presence in our life. That’s a deep thought! I know many of us want to get to that place but dont know how to. But if we do get there, its easier to live with thankfulness.

If we think of generosity as getting more than we expected, our experience of generosity of God or anyone will depend on our expectations. When our expectations in life are in tune with what’s in God’s will, we may experience God as more generous.

When I look at the world God has made, I see that He has given us much more than we need for survival. The beauty in creation, the joy of good fellowship, good food, are some examples of what we are given beyond our needs. It tells me God is generous.

God is not however going to be generous in areas that will lead us to be prideful and far from Him. Yet, in this world we do experience sorrows and trials despite a godly disposition of heart. God seems silent at least for a time. When we dont have resources/skills to cope with a situation, we may feel that God is not generous. His generosity doesn’t come in the package we hope for. We need new eyes to see his generosity. I have heard it preached, “God will take care of our needs but not wants”. That seems too simplistic and I am not sure if its even biblical. How do we define our needs? Do only spiritual needs qualify? And even for spiritual needs, there is always the opposition of ungodly spiritual forces in the world we live in. So we can be certain that there will always be unmet needs in this life.

The only way then to experience generosity of God in this life is on the basis of recognition that our need must be centered on God Himself. That’s an expectation God always promises to fulfill.

I would love to hear from others how they have experienced God as generous when experiencing unmet needs. I mean deep needs that are not coming from a place of greed or selfishness but hardships.

Thanks for the thought provoking question that causes us to take an inventory of our heart…just in time for Thanksgiving.


Thanks for this - I think this is a really good point you’ve raised. I know that it can be easy to diminish the value of our physical needs. Of course we know that God is most interested in what is eternal - He is constantly forming us more and more into the likeness of His son, and we tend to think of this as a eternal/spiritual dimension. However, God didn’t just make us spiritual beings. He made us physical too, which means He must value our physical wellbeing (although, as you say we live in a world that’s in a spiritual war, and we consequently don’t always experience our expectation of physical abundance). If we dismiss the physical as irrelevant, a distraction to the eternal, or unimportant, it’s not too far off from seeing the spiritual part of ourselves as ‘good’ and the physical part of ourselves as ‘bad’ which is part of Gnosticism. Therefore, God must be equally interested in giving generously towards our physical states too.

I wonder if sometimes we think we’re being too carnal minded if we seek physical provision. But do we ever feel like we’re asking too much of God to provide for us spiritually? I imagine not? Therefore it must only be right that we have an expectation of God’s provision for our physical needs. Perhaps it becomes more complicated in the physical realm because of what you pointed out:

I also like how you pointed out:

I feel challenged to increase my expectations of God’s generosity towards my spiritual life, and to dare to ask for his generosity in my physical life and see what He does there! Certainly increasing our expectations is a good thing. I am reminded of a passage in Ephesians 3:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

I note here that:

  • every family is named after the Father
  • that Christ’s love surpasses knowledge
  • that we may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God
  • that He is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine

This generosity is overwhelming!


Hi Alison,

It was great to be reminded that God cares for our physical lives as well! Thank you for that! Afterall, Jesus asked us to pray, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ and He promised to give us immortal bodies in eternity proving that our physical lives do matter to God. We indeed can go to God with all of our needs and we can keep in mind that He is a good Father no matter how our prayers are answered.

We should expect good things from the Lord but to cope with unanswered prayers, I think we also need a sound understanding of “Not my will but Thy will be done”. So viewing God as generous seems to need a deeper transformation of our mind.


It’s almost like we need 2 dimensions of expectation: an expectation that God is good and gives abundantly, and another expectation that life can be brutal.

Pete Grieg writes in his book, God On Mute (a book I found really helpful in understanding unanswered prayer),

Maybe life is just very hard, and thats ok. ‘Each day’, says Jesus, ‘had enough trouble of its own’ (Matt 6:34). He of all people was realistic about how tough life can be. The apostle Peter was equally phlegmatic when writing to the saints scattered across Asia Minor by persecution, saying, ‘Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you’ (1 Peter 4:12).

Perhaps we should accept what older people and poorer people and many of those with disabilities already know: Things are probably going to be very difficult today and just as hard tomorrow, too. Maybe by adjusting our expectations we can reduce the sense of disapppintment, isolation and unfairness riding on the back of unanswered prayer. With a business-as-usual approach to life’s trials, the good times can become surprising and delightful. It will be our blessings more than our sufferings that provoke us to ask God, ‘Why?’.

Imagine two sets of people living together in the same grand, old, dilapidated building. Half of them think it’s an expensive hotel, and they are bitterly disappointed. The other half think it’s a prison, and they are pleasantly surprised. Ironically, it is when we finally accept the fact that life is not a five-star hotel and lay down our indignation at the way we are being treated that we begin to find hope. As long as we rage against the heavens, we will remain impoverished in our pain. But when we allow our eyes to fall to the mire, we may then discover a wealth of little epiphanies glimmering in puddles at our feet. When G.K. Chesterton finally gave up trying to be optimistic about the world and accepted that it was fallen, far from feeling depressed, his heart ‘sang for joy like a bird in spring’.

In having a sense of failed abundance, we will feel impoverished, our experiences of God’s generosity will be minimal. Somehow we have to have high expectations of God’s goodness whilst simultaneously having low expectations of what this life might throw at us. And to add another layer to that, with this readjusted expectation that life is tough, we must retain onto Hope that God may yet change our circumstances…I feel like it’s some sort of Rubiks cube of faith, reality, expectation, and hope! Certainly not an easy one to get our heads around.

I can’t address this very well, other than to say that I was raised to believe that as Christians we have a right to healthy bodies. When illness came, it was a confusing anomaly that made me question God. In my adult life, I have realised that being a child of God doesn’t give me any extra special right to a healthy body which has actually given me a sense of release when sickness comes. I feel more able to endure the suffering because I now understand that’s part of life. Previously, enduring illness was a lot harder because I believed I wasn’t deserving of it. My perspective on God’s provision and generosity was probably turned 180 degrees, and for the better by this readjusted expectation of suffering on earth and God’s promises for my good.

Pete Grieg quotes CS Lewis in his book with a very grounding line:

Lay down this book and reflect for five minutes on the fact that all the great religions were first preached, and long practised, in a world without chloroform.

I really think that pain in this life can lead us to hope more in God’s generosity, not just of the present but of the eternal.


Hi Alison,

Thanks for sharing your experience and the book. Very helpful! I have to think more about everything you shared.

And we have love to add to the mix! Isnt the storyline of the salvation message same as the storyline of our life? We have so little in our control. We experience pain. We realize we dont have what it takes. We need help that is beyond ourselves. I agree with you, our unmet needs may be an invitation to go discover the genorosity of God.


I’ve loved reading this conversation. Thanks for this prompt, @Carson!

There are so many dimensions to perceiving generosity…or lack thereof. As you both have said, much of it depends upon one’s expectations as well as perspective on a given situation. If one expects nothing from anyone, then one could view receiving anything good (no matter how small) from someone as an act of generosity – ala Chesterton. I admit I tend to function like this…expect the worst so that anything “nice” is a bonus. Pleasantries are unexpected, which make them more pleasant. I expect this comes from, among other things, my Reformed theological formation and its emphasis on human depravity.

But, really, what is “generous”?

…liberal in giving or sharing
…free from meanness or smallness of mind or character
…rich or strong in flavor
syn: abundant, fertile, ample, magnanimous

For me, a tangential question to Do you experience God as generous? is How do you interpret/understand the with-holding or withdrawing of God? For, we do not have a vending machine or a genie-in-a-bottle God. He does not have to give us what we ask. God cannot be controlled by us.

@alison mentioned one of the more moralistic interpretations: God is with-holding because you are not worthy…you’ve done something wrong, therefore you have lost your “right” to health. Or perhaps you haven’t exercised enough “faith” in claiming your “right” to health. You’ll probably have to explain a bit more, Alison, because my theological frame was the exact opposite! The only “right” that humans have is the right to hell. And from that perspective, anything God would stoop to (no doubt, reluctantly) give is “generous”. Basically, God is “generous” to us for his own sake, not ours.

But in the definition above is the word liberal. Liberality connotes a freedom. Liberal giving/sharing is done freely, non-transactionally. He gives us things for our sake, first, then for the sake of others. It’s both-and, not either-or. (So much of evangelical theology is “You don’t matter. God blesses you for others’ sake.”)

So, how do I interpret and engage with both God’s generosity and with-holding, silence, mute-ness? Where I used to think that I needed to do more (or better) to earn God’s generosity, I now view the silence as an enigmatic invitation…much like what both Alison and @lakshmi have said.

I can remember being at a week-long camp one summer, and we were on the “treetops” or “high ropes” course, probably 30-or-so feet in the air. There were counsellors at every “base”, who would transfer our harnesses in between “challenges”. I remember struggling on one particular challenge, and as I made my way toward the next base, I stretched out my hand to the counsellor at the base and said, “help me”, wanting him to pull me up onto the platform. This guy (who was very kind) just sort of looked at me and where I was and said encouragingly, “You’re fine. Come on.” So I did…and I was fine. :laughing:

Sometimes, I feel like that is God with me. I reach out my hand and say “help me”, thinking that the faster he helps me (blesses me, gives me what I need to do the job) the faster I get to wherever he wants me and the better I can do the job. Everyone wins.

But, perhaps, God doesn’t want me to just do a job for him, like I’m merely a cog in a machine. Perhaps he also wants to grow me, to expand me, to challenge me? Perhaps he also desires my engagement with the whole process? Perhaps it’s not about trying harder to be better, but persevering…keeping on? Perhaps a priority of his is not efficiency but my creative expansion…and, consequently, the expansion of me in His Kingdom…and, from there, the expansion of the Kingdom as a whole. (I just read the Parables section in Matthew this morning, so the conceptualization of The Kingdom is fresh on my mind.)

So, for me, the generosity of God that I have more recently discovered is his relational generosity…the generosity and invitation of a creator’s heart. I am not an alien, external threat to God’s creation, I am a loved part of the internal process of God’s re-creation. Though I recognize that, as a part of the process, I can intentionally or inadvertently work against God (Mt. 12:30), I know that part of his generosity comes in the form of showing me how I am scattering rather than gathering with Him .


I think my understanding growing up wasn’t an issue of whether we were ‘worthy’ enough, but more an issue of ‘we belong to Christ so we have a right to health and financial security’. Often, I was subtly led to think that if a Christian was ill or suffering poverty, then obviously it was due to some sort of spiritual curse/or God’s withholding of blessing, perhaps because they had ‘strongholds’ in their life. I’d say this was a strain of teaching which is niche to just some branches of charismatic Christianity.

Something you also mentioned, about an emphasis of the depravity of man in reformed theology made me realise that I think I received the opposite emphasis in my upbringing. Of course we were told we were sinners and that Christ died for our sin. However the focus was always on the love, forgiveness, and our inheritance as children of God to health and provision. You also mentioned that ‘non transactional aspect’ of Christ’s mercy. I think I had a warped understanding of this too, in that I knew I could do nothing to increase or remove God’s forgiveness and love, so (in my baby logic) I could do pretty much anything I liked! As a consequence to all this, I think the idea of God’s generosity was fairly diluted. As a parent today, sometimes I recognise an element of entitlement in my children even though we try hard to teach them gratitude. I suspect there was an element of entitlement for me as a child of God back then.

Therefore, in the last few years, it has actually been really helpful for my perspective of God to understand the depravity of man in more detail, which is why I have found some reformed teaching quite refreshing. From this new perspective, I have been able to enjoy the concept of God’s generosity all the more.

This idea is beautiful, and carries so much more richness for me than the idea of a healthy body or enough financial provision. I’m so grateful to God that he stripped away some of my wrong thinking in the last number of years.