Generosity in the Face of Crisis

Learning how to be generous can be challenging, even more so when things start going sideways.

The most difficult times of stewardship stem from crisis. When there’s a blip in the economy or an unexpected financial need confronting us, our anxiousness about money greatly increases.

There will always be confident people in times of financial crisis. Typically, it’s not because they have the greatest faith, but that they were prepared for the moment—faithfully stashing away savings so they might be positioned to survive the storm. Conversely, there will be those that feel absolutely crushed when facing monetary challenges. Perhaps they were living on the fringe even before the crisis hit; facing insurmountable obligations, they feel as if they’re suffocating.

Whether we have planned sufficiently or feel we have no way out, our call to be generous doesn’t cease during crisis.

There are a multitude of resources available to help Christians manage through times of financial trouble. Here, however, I want us to consider how we can continue to be generous even as the going gets tough.

1. Navigate

Times of crisis lead us to be more reactive than proactive. Even the most prepared among us struggle to be generous in periods of calamity.

It’s easy to understand why. When we’re forced to allocate dollars toward emergencies, we tend to adopt a scarcity mindset. We spend so much energy looking internally that we neglect to admit that there are always those experiencing even greater challenges.

This is why a navigation mindset is so important when facing crisis. We must meet the troubles head on. We cannot afford to be passive when tough times abound. Identify the crisis at hand and commit to remaining generous no matter happens.

2. Reallocate

As we formulate our response to crisis, we have to prioritize our obligations. Take a hard look at your budget as well as your available savings. Then rank your financial commitments from those most important to least.

The previous advice is fairly standard advice to someone in a financial emergency. For the Christian, however, we will elevate generosity to the top of the ranking. The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, tells us the secret of contentment in every season, “whether well fed, or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” What’s that secret? “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). If Jesus is the source of our strength, generosity in crisis is proof that we’re living out our beliefs.

In order to give, you’re going to have to move resources away from those lesser priorities. And despite this reallocation, you still might need to scale back your generosity for a season. Regardless of how your revised budget looks, the prioritization of generosity must be evident.

3. Communicate

We typically don’t go through a financial crisis alone. Whether it’s a spouse, family, or friend, our efforts to navigate and reallocate will have an impact on others.

While our tendency might be to be discreet, we should invite others into our struggle. I realize that the mere suggestion of letting others know might make some of us cringe. Many of us deliberately avoid financial conversations, let alone those that involve our personal situations. But Christianity was never meant to be practiced in isolation. In fact, in telling others, we might even encounter someone who might have a solution to our problem.

We’ll never know unless we let others know.

It’s not that we’re seeking out humiliation. Rather, we should embrace accountability. In communicating about our crisis, it becomes less internalized, and we keep the external factors at the forefront.

4. Magistrate

I’ll admit that I’m trying to use a noun as a verb just to match the theme of my points, so please forgive me. But when the time of crisis is over, we must judge for ourselves how we fared. We become, in essence, our own magistrate. 

Reflect on the crisis you just experienced. Were you still able to meet your giving goals? Were you generous despite the challenge of the times? In the end, what lessons did you learn?

When it comes to stewardship, there are endless opportunities for growth. Catastrophe might even provide the greatest opportunity for our improvement.

A few years ago, a politician coined the advice, “never waste a crisis.” I offer the same counsel when it comes to giving. If we want to strengthen the habit of generosity, crisis presents an unexpected opportunity.