There was an old system in chemistry that was used to determine the weight of atoms. The weights of atoms were basically calculated relative to hydrogen, the lightest atom with a weight of 1.00. Thus nitrogen which was six times the weight of hydrogen had the weight of 6.00. This system has since been replaced though.
Generosity on the other hand cannot be determined through relativity to a standard measurement of 10% as no such standard exists anywhere even in the bible! Generosity is an individual thing!
Some misguided overzealous individuals propagate the so-called 10% as a standard for generosity and claim that this has been set by God. So as far as they are concerned, anyone who fails to give up to 10% of what they earn is not being generous. These people fail to consider the dynamic nature of human beings and the world we live in.
The Old Testament tithes cannot be used to measure generosity as this was a system of taxation which was compulsory. And as with every system of taxation, there were guidelines. I will use the system of taxation in the UK as an example.
In the UK, there is a certain percentage of one’s earnings that is tax free, anything beyond this is taxed. This same system was evident in the tithe-tax system of the Old Testament – agricultural produce had to be up to ten before one could tithe. So 9 sheep, no tithe but 10 sheep, the tenth was the tithe. This was not 10% neither was it held up as some sort of generosity standard for both the Old and New Testament.
Generosity is determined in relation to what one has and not what one does not have. In effect, giving just 10% of what I earn when I can give much more does not show generosity on my part. And on the other hand if all I can afford comes to less than 10% of what I earn but is a huge sacrifice on my part, I can be called generous. I don’t have to give to the extent of being destitute in order to please God and be called generous!
A legalistic approach Christianity is to blame for this mess. Man-made standards for determining those who are good Christians have been set up. Some introduce dress codes, others use commitment to the local church and yet others have added a 10% rule which is completely absent in the bible as a standard of generosity, setting the tone for legalism. Those who genuine cannot afford to give up to 10% are left feeling guilty while those who give 10% feel superior and self-righteous, a bit like the Pharisee in the book of Luke.
Generosity is not relative to 10% as there will always be people who can give way more than that and people who can give way less. At the end of the day though man is not the judge, God is and He alone knows the hearts of people and rewards everyone accordingly.
I only just realised I missed out the most important part of generosity – its definition.
I quickly did a search on Google and came up with this definition on Wikipedia – “Generosity is the habit of giving freely without expecting anything in return. It can involve offering time, assets or talents to aid someone in need. Often equated with charity as a virtue, generosity is widely accepted in society as a desirable trait.”
In the light of this definition, it will appear that many Christians who give including those who tithe religiously are not at all generous! This is because of their give to receive mindset.
That hardly qualifies as generosity!