If we want to see an example of a generous man, we do well to study a giver like Abraham right in the first book of the Bible. He gave graciously and generously at the key turning points of his life. His story is full of principles for us if we want to be generous and godly givers.
God first spoke to a young man named Abram and asked him to leave his idol-worshipping relatives, and start out for a new place that He, God, wanted to give him, and promised that there he would become a great man - head of a huge nation. Abram and his wife, (also his half-sister), packed up to go, and Abram invited his nephew Lot to come too. Lot accepted. (Or perhaps Lot begged to come along).
They traveled to Canaan, and God told Abram this was the land He would give to his descendants. But there was a famine in the land, so Abram moved his entourage on to Egypt. Abram had an interesting experience there with trying to protect himself by asking Sarai to lie about their relationship. That backfired on him, and Sarai was taken into the Pharaoh's haram for a while. God intervened and the Pharaoh loaded Abram down with gifts so that when they went back to Bethel in the promised land, Abram was much richer. Perhaps he learned not to be so selfish from that experience in Egypt.
Lot had grown with his flocks and family too, and there was difficulty between their herdsmen. So this time Abram gave Lot the choice. "You can choose either this lush valley area here by the Sea, or over there in the mountains." Lot selfishly choose the easy life in the valley, - by the Dead Sea. Abram quietly took the harder area in the mountains.
Later it was Abram who came to rescue Lot when he was taken captive in a local war. It seems that living in the valley near cities, or civilization, had its drawbacks. When he was successful in rescuing not only Lot and his family, but all the captives and the loot taken, the king of Sodom offered Abram all the loot as a reward. But Abram declined, saying that he did not want it reported that he gained wealth as a result of someone else's misfortune.
Abram met Melchizedek, king of Salem, who was also a priest of the Most High God. So Abram gave him a tenth of all he had as a token of his worship and high regard for God. Not long after, at God's initiation and power, God and Abram made a covenant. It involved more, and bigger promises from God. All Abram had to do was believe, and this was credited to him for righteousness, or good standing with God.
Waiting for that first son so they could start that promised dynasty of a nation was hard. Sarai found it too hard to believe, so she instigated a solution that was common practice all around them, but contrary to what God had promised Abram. She offered her maid Hagar as a substitute for her own, apparantly baren womb.
But then, Sarai saw the error of her idea, and made life hard for Hagar, her maid. So much, so that Hagar ran away with her baby, but God brought them back.
Abram was ready to live with the consequences, and had no trouble loving and caring for his son Ishamel through Hagar. But eventually God Himself told Abram to send Hagar and Ishmael on their way. Naturally, he was not going to do that without gifts of support and love - and most likely prayers. Again, we can learn to be a giver like Abram, even in the matter of parting gifts.
When Abram was ninety-nine, God intiated another covenant, the circumcision, which would be passed down to all his male descendants. With it came a name change. Abram was to become Abraham, to indicate that he was a father of nations.
When three heavenly visitors came to confirm the promised first son, Abraham gave them the gift of hospitality. He had them rest in the shade of a big tree, and saw that a fine meal was prepared for them.
When they were about to leave, one of the visitors, (understood to be Christ incarnate), took Abraham aside to confide in him God's plan to destroy the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham knew that Lot and his family lived there, so he exerted himself to give another gift - one of intercessory prayer. He prayed several times asking if the cities could be spared if there were a few righteous people there. With each prayer he made that number smaller. He stopped at ten.
There were not ten, but God sent the two angels ahead to bring Lot and his wife and two daughters out before the judgmental fire and brimstone hailed down on the two cities and made an end of them. So Abraham's intercession was effective. (Although it is sad to read that neither Lot's wife or his daughters were truly righteous).
The promised son arrived at last, and they named him Isaac, which means 'laughter' because they were so thrilled with God's gift to them.
Isaac was still a boy, when God tested Abraham to see whether he would trust God enough to give up this son if asked. Abraham had spent so many years learning to trust and obey God, that he was able to pass this severe test, and give back to God this precious son.
Truly, we don't often hear of a give like Abraham, who had learned to receive and give so graciously. So God gave Isaac back to him again. He provided a ram nearby to use for his offering instead.
I see yet one more instance of Abraham's generosity before we'll try to count them up. When it was time to find a wife for Isaac, Abraham sent his long-time servant back to the land of Er, from where he had come, to bring back a suitable wife for Isaac. This servant, who remains unnamed, had learned his master's ways and took along Abraham's fine gifts of jewelry for the bride-to-be. Like Abraham he prayed, discerned God's choice woman, and successfully persuaded her family to let her come along with him back to Isaac and Abraham.
In Genesis chapter 25, we read of a lesser known part of Abraham's life. After Sarai died, and he had mourned her, Abraham took another wife, though sometimes referred to as his comcubine. She bore him six more sons. Abraham left all his wealth to Isaac, the son of promise, but while he was still alive he gave gifts to these other six sons, and when they were old enough to go out on their own, he sent them away with gifts, so that they would not be a problem for Isaac. There's probably much more in this story than we can see on the surface. But we do see that generosity is deeply ingrained in someone who is a giver like Abraham.
Are you a giver like Abraham? So how many lessons in giving do you see in Abraham's life?
I see ten - so far. Would you like to create your own list and then compare it with mine?
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