Generosity: Non-reciprocal giving

True generosity is about sacrifice, not reciprocity

In Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount, he includes some provocative words from Jesus about loving your enemies. This is the section where, famously, Jesus teaches us to, ‘do to others as you would have them do to you’. But what follows this sentence is perhaps less familiar:

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.

Much of this is relevant to our focus this week on generosity. Jesus is making it clear that there are two levels to loving others. There is a foundational level of love that is simply loving those who love us too. Living in a loving and generous way towards family and friends whose love and generosity is reciprocal is wonderful, necessary, and normal — but it’s not exactly a sacrifice. As Jesus stresses with his repeated refrain: ‘Even sinners do that’.

There is a higher level of love though and, in the context of our theme this week, a higher level of generosity too. Being generous to our loved ones is just part of a normal, healthy relationship. It doesn’t stretch us and it doesn’t involve sacrifice. But the higher level of love and generosity is to give towards those from who we will get nothing back in return.

True generosity is not an investment. It’s not something we do with hope or expectation of anything in return. It’s not about what we can get back from it. Generosity is not calculated. And neither is it something we do for recognition or status. Hence Jesus’ teaching to, ‘not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing’.

True generosity is expressed in secretly giving to those in need with no thought of reciprocal benefit. It is making a sacrifice purely for the benefit of someone else who isn’t in a position to give anything back.

What are some ways you could start to move to a higher level of generosity? What people or causes could you express generosity towards that will not offer any sense of reciprocity?

Originally published at

Generosity: The gift of time and presence

Generosity: Lessons from Ghana