rebelling against low expectations

What does it look like to give generously as a teenager?


HOPE WRITES: In many Christian living books that I have read lately, there has been a huge emphasize on giving up your comforts so that others might have their needs met. In general the focus is to display the love of God by giving to others. However, how does this play out into the lives of teens trying to save for college with a minimal income?

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  • Giving doesn’t necessarily involve money. You could make something for someone or give of your time or babysit or work for someone without making them pay. I don’t usually give of my money, but I don’t think that necessarily makes me stingy or ungiving. Hope this helps!

  • I have found that just giving of yourself is enough. Whether that be of your money or time or energy, etc. It’s just caring about the person, and therefore finding ways to give. But also being wise about how much money you choose to put out. Thoughts?

    • I agree about being wise with what you give. For example in church in Sunday I wanted to give the 20 bucks in my wallet. Yet I knew that was my emergency money and I’d already been stuck in a situation where I didn’t have my emergency money when I really needed it.
      I think it’s more important that we give generously in other ways not just with money. Such as giving up your Saterday to help with an event at your church or going out of your way to help someone with their homework.
      I hope that makes sence.

  • Really I think that the trick is learning how to give of yourself. Which can include money, but can just as well include your time or energy. Its just caring about the person enough to give when the opportunity arises. (I was thinking more about giving to your family or community rather than something large scale.)
    Is this any help?

    • Yes! Giving of your time is a great way to give to others. In addition to helping your family, you could serve for various organizations – one of my friends shares the gospel in prison and the inner city. The opportunities are always there, just keep your eyes open and God will show you exactly where you need to be.

      • Those are some awesome ways your friend has found to get involved. I totally agree that opportunities are always provided. God is never stingy with stuff to do for Him.

  • Think of the story of the widow and the two mites, though she didn’t have a lot, she gave what little she had. When we give, it doesnt need to be just money. Our time, talents, effort, and attitude can all be used to serve the Lord’s people and those in need. A general rule of thumb is to give 10% of your money, but dont restrict giving to just money. I think giving is more of a lifestyle of helping other people and sacrificing our time and energy for thwm.

  • I think that even though we’re saving for things like college, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tithe (or give money in general). The point of tithing is to give back to God a portion of what He has given you, not just tithing when you’re comfortable financially and wouldn’t miss it.
    However, I do think that as teens, the best thing we can do is give of our time and talents. @samwegner:disqus put it perfectly. 🙂 While we should not be afraid to tithe, I do think that sometimes people forget that there’s more to giving than just money. We can do things like give up the comfort of sleeping in on a Saturday morning to go volunteer at a soup kitchen. We can be generous in every aspect of our lives, and I believe we are called to!

  • Giving generously can literally be anything you want it to be! Giving money is good, and it helps, but even doing a few extra chores around the house without anyone knowing, or reading to your little sister when you’d rather be in bed reading your own book works. Or maybe at church, when you want to hang out with your friends, but instead you go introduce yourself to the new kid and help him feel welcome. You’re trading your comforts to give others some, and God will smile when he sees it.

  • I agree with all the comments that have been posted so far. You don’t have to ‘give until it hurts’ as is the popular belief. If you give what God puts on your heart, it will always be just right. No matter how little it seems. My Dad wrote a song a while back about how a little bit given to the Lord becomes a lot. Although whatever we give may not seem like much to us, God can use it regardless.
    My family has lived on a love offering basis for the past eighteen years, trusting that God will provide for our needs, and He has. We conduct our product table in the same way, making all of our music available to people for simply a donation of any amount. My Dad sometimes tells a story from the stage about an instance when an elderly lady (about ninety or so) came to the table and pulled out her coin purse. She asked how much our CDs were and my Dad -seeing how little she had- told her she could just take one; that she didn’t have to pay him anything for it. But she insisted that she wanted to give something to help our ministry, and so, pulling out a dollar bill she held it out to him and asked, “would this be enough?” to which he replied, “Yes, that’s just right.”
    It doesn’t matter how much you have to give, if you give it as unto the Lord he will bless it, just as the heart of that dear lady blesses me every time I hear that story.

  • Giving generously as teenagers really looks different for everyone. It does’t just include monetary giving, but giving of your time, talents, and personal comfort too. Being a generous giver is very much a heart issue, since there isn’t a magic formula for giving. Tithing is a good place to start, It’s Biblical, and it’s helpful, but it’s not an end. Giving generously is so much more! Simply put, It’s not withholding anything that God asks of you, and readily giving Him more.
    God bless,

  • Hmm….this is an interesting question because I’ve never really had a solid income until recently (and it still isn’t very much) and I have always wondered how I should give to our church, to the organizations that my family support, etc. I wanted to give, but I wasn’t sure how when I didn’t have much. But, like the widow that @Sam Wegner mentioned, even though she had little, she gave half of what she had, and that was giving generously. So even though it may not be a lot, giving half or even 10 percent of what you have is generous. And I agree with what every one else is saying, that giving doesn’t necessarily have to be money either. When we give anything to someone who is in need of that thing, then we are still “displaying the love of God” to that person, even though it may not be money.

  • Giving doesn’t just involve money. As others have said, you can give time, talents, etc. Also remember that when you give, give it all you got, even if you’re not getting the attention or you’re just not good at it.

  • Giving generously…. This was something I was confronted with not to long ago. Think of the woman in Mark. She only gave a few coins while many “spiritual” men were giving great sums of money. But those few coins were all she had. You can not give generously without making a sacrifice. To give generously you have to give up something the world would call important, and have faith in God that He will provide.

  • Have you ever considered giving a tenth of whatever you make? There are verses in the Bible that tell Christians to give a tenth of their income (I can provide verse references if you need me to). I’m assuming from what you wrote that you do have an income, so I’d encourage you to give a tenth of what you earn to your church. One thing about giving a tenth, is that whatever your income, you are only giving a tenth. That means if you only make a small amount of money, then you are giving a smaller amount of money. I know this kind of sounds like giving to the church is a duty (and it it is in a way), and that I’m trying to find a way out of giving as much as I should, but maybe the LORD told us to give a tenth because he knew that it would always fit within our income. Of course, there’s nothing in the Bible that says to give nothing more that a tenth, so, that your decision.

    When you consider giving to others, remember “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” -Luke 6:38

    • I don’t think that the percentage you give really matters compared to your heart attitude. Maybe we should focus on giving generously with time and money no matter how much we decide to give.

      • I agree that the percentage isn’t a big deal and that your attitude is the most important thing (and that we should give of our time as well), but giving ten percent (tithing) of our income (if we have one) is still a good place to start and a nice habit to get into (besides being Biblical). Personally, setting it in my mind that I’m going to tithe monthly helps me to remember to give. And it helps set a standard for me for giving generously. If I want to be more generous with my money, then I’ll give more than ten percent.
        Just some thoughts. 🙂

  • For a few years, I have had a mission mason jar. Whenever I have extra change or cash, I’ll put it in there. Sometimes if there is something in particular I feel God leading me to do, I save up for it. Whatever the jar funds are used for, I write it down on a piece of paper and tape it on the outside. It’s a great way to give & to remember what God has done! One thing that has really stuck with me is what one Christian woman found to be true: You can never out give God.

  • Whenever I think of giving as a teen, I usually think time. Cutting back on little comforts, like serving when you’d rather be relaxing. Money wise though, I put some of my allowance in a jar for church when I get the cash, and promise myself not to use any of it for anything except church. I then put the rest in my spending/savings jar.

  • Honestly, to give generously as a teen, I think we ought to be handing out some respect a little more often. As a population, a lot of us are quick to judge, quick to hate, and not so fast at apologizing. (I’m not saying this applies to all teens, just a lot of the ones I know and the one I used to be)If you can’t give with time or money, give respect. Simply being polite can change someone’s day entirely.

  • Giving generously is not giving a certain amount of money. Giving generously is giving what is generous to you. For example, if a millionaire donated $100 to charity, everyone would consider that quite stingy. However, if you, as a teen, donated $100 to charity, everyone would consider that generous. I don’t know how much your income is. It might be more or less for you. Giving generously is not even always giving money, as a lot of others have posted. It can be giving your time and talents. Your church is a great place to do this. Getting involved in a ministry is an easy way to give and can sometimes be fun! Hope this helps!

  • I have found Luke 6:38 to be very true. Not that it is my
    intentions, but it seems that every time I see a need to be filled (with money)
    and I step out and give trusting God, opportunities always follow to earn the
    money back. Maybe not right away but when I need it. It’s defiantly hard to
    decide what to do with your money when your taught to save it for a rainy day.
    And on one hand you should be wise with your spending but you must also trust
    God will provide when He asks you to give. So I think its something to talk to
    God about, after all it is His money. I always have to think of the parable of
    the 3 workers who were trusted with the masters money as well as when Jesus
    said not to worry about tomorrow. (Matt 6 & 25) Dying to self has never been easy, but its always worth it. Keep asking for Gods will and He will let you know what it is, for the time being.

  • Dear Hope,
    I have been thinking and praying about this very thing of how God want’s to use me, especially with my giving. It is so true that God will provide for all your needs. (maybe not when we would like Him to :), but He will provide when we put Him FIRST

  • As many have pointed out, giving can be talent, time or treasure. Paul notes in 1Cor 9:6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly and he who show bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Since we don’t do farming they way they did, we miss the picture: back in the day, crops like wheat were sown (planted) by taking a big ol’ handful of seeds and flinging them to scatter them on the prepared soil. To someone who didn’t know what was going on, it would look an awful lot like throwing the seeds away. The technique is called broadcasting–and yes, that’s were the news term came from (tossing the info laden radio/tv waves into the great beyond…). It is contrasted with someone who only dribbles the seeds very miserly.

    Verse 7 goes on to say that God loves a cheerful giver. What is important is the heart attitude, not the amount. Like God needs “our” money anyway!

    It is also important to remember that the tithe as listed under the Old Covenant–before His Death and Resurrection–was only a part of what was expected. All in all, the temple related “tax rate” added up to about 30%. Add on top of that whatever the government took–sometimes the temple/government was pretty close to being the same thing. Other times, like in Jesus’ lifetime (before the Cross), the Roman tax collectors gouged even more than what the Romans required–which was on top of the temple stuff.

    The writer of Hebrews makes it pretty clear, as does Paul, that the purpose of the Law–all parts of it–was to show how far short we all fall of His Perfection. That includes $$$. As the old hymn goes, “Jesus paid it all.”

    So to sum up: give what you have to give, be it time, talent or treasure, as you purpose in your heart and do so joyfully, not so that you will be rewarded but because Jesus set the standard. He paid 100% and did so with joy. It’s a whole lot more about relationship and depending on Him than pretty much anything else.

    My $0.02. Here’s a pretty decent summary without getting too theologically technical:

    There are other good explanations out there too.

    God give the increase, not so we can raise our standard of living, but so we can raise our standard of giving.

    • Thanks Jeff! Hope isn’t the only one who has thought about this, it has been something that I have wondered about too, and haven’t quite come to a conclusion about. But this helps.

      • You’re welcome! the snippet I posted really doesn’t do justice to the theology behind how I came to that position. I followed a former pastor’s thinking for years w/o doing “Berean” on the teaching–I didn’t search the Word for myself. I mean, I trusted my pastor, right? I now think his perspective was not an accurate representation of the New Covenant of Grace.

        In a nutshell, he taught that the tithe (the initial 10%) is what you own God. An offering was giving above and beyond the tithe, and sacrifice is giving until it hurts. Preaches well, but isn’t biblical. I didn’t understand that until after hearing a series on Hebrews by Drew Farley (, He made it clear that the tithe doesn’t apply to Believers, since it is an integral part of the OT Law.

        I highly recommend Dr Farley’s material–he’s got podcasts available in iTunes, Android (via an app) and via web. Several books.

        Again, the bottom line is giving what you think/is in your heart, with a joyful (not happy! *Happy* is based on circumstance –same root as “happen/happenstance”) spirit, and mostly with great trust that He will guide and teach you. Will you make mistakes? Probably. No worries, God’s got your back. Remember that He usually uses people, then circumstances, saving direct intervention for “special occasions”. Whatever those might be.

        What pleases God? Faith. Trusting in Him. Demons believe, and tremble. Belief is the intellectual grasp of Him & His Reality. Faith is the action based on that belief…I can look at a chair and believe it will hold me. Faith is planting my tuchas on it.

        It is a great encouragement to see you and so many of your peers Doing Hard Things and not living down to the standards of the world!

        • True statement about belief vs. Faith. Those get mixed up too often in my mind, and because of that I end up losing faith rather than growing in it – therefore effecting everything in my walk with Christ. Including giving. But I realize that everything in the christian life comes back to faith. Not just in the biggest issues like salvation or tithing. It is living every moment and situation in faith that He holds your outcomes. It’s not your problem. A quote I saw either on Facebook or on here (I don’t remember where I saw it) said: you pray, and let God worry.

          • “Worry is accepting responsibility God never intended you to have.”

            In Him, we have peace and rest. He is the Lord of the Sabbath (rest).

  • While I believe giving of your talents is important, I have found that, for me, giving also very much includes giving money. I try to tithe ten percent of whatever money I receive, regardless of the source. But sometimes I feel led to give above and beyond that, and what happens when I obey that tugging on my heart? God provides. I get a text from someone asking me to babysit, or receive extra money for my birthday from a relative, etc. But somehow every time God asks me to empty out my wallet and trust Him, He always refills it in perfect time. I think it is easy as a teenager (I’m sixteen, and do not technically have a “real job”) to fall into the “I’m a kid so I don’t have to tithe” mindset, so I make it a priority to tithe. The sooner it becomes a habit, the more likely we will do it the rest of our lives. I am glad you are searching for answers to this, and want to encourage you to continue to make giving (in every way) a priority in your life. Remember, it is more blessed to give than to receive. 🙂 I hope this helps, Hope!

  • I believe that the New Testament teaching on giving has a lot to do with how much you have available to give (not how big the amount is, but how big the percentage that is given is) and it has to do with the attitude in which you give it. If you give everything you have with the wrong attitude, you fail.

    Understood in the context of 2 Corinthians 8; “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: ‘He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.’” -2 Corinthians 8:14-15 NIV

    “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” -2 Corinthians 9:6-7 KJV

    “A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” –Proverbs 11:25 NIV

    “And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.” –Luke 21:3-4 KJV

    What does it look like to give generously as a teenager? I would say that you first pray and ask God how much He wants you to give. This was Hudson Taylor’s advice. And once you’re sure your giving is in the Lord’s will and done for the right reasons, give! And the Lord will bless your obedience.

  • There’s been some great comments so far! Many people have pointed out that living generously involves time and talents as well as money, so since that point is made, I’d like to touch on the money aspect and what it’s looked like for me.

    I’ve only recently had a steady income (and even now it fluctuates week to week – no easy-to-make budgets for this girl yet!). So for most of my teen years so far, the only money I got was from birthdays/Christmas, an odd job here or there, and money I earned doing extra jobs for Mum and Dad when I wanted to. But even though my income was highly irregular, I would still tithe (I blame that on my parents drilling that into me as soon as I knew the power of those metal discs). Like @Skitterson:disqus said, I believe tithing is important. It is a key foundation for generosity. Now, when I have a fairly steady income, I still tithe. Oh, I should mention that I am saving fastidiously for car insurance now. So I can relate to the trying-to-save-for-college-as-well thing a bit.

    With both an irregular and steady income, I also gave/give more than a tithe when I felt/feel God calling me to. Sometimes the Christian radio station has a fundraiser, and I feel God’s tug on my heart. Sometimes, a friend is going on mission, and God prompts me to aid her financially. I make an effort to pray carefully before hand, of course. I absolutely believe that these kid of every-now-and-again gifts are one of the best ways to cultivate generosity.

    You’ve said you have minimal income. You’ve said you’re saving. You appear to desire to cultivate generosity as a teen (I would say ‘you’ve said’ except you didn’t actually say that directly, although it’s pretty obvious 🙂 ). I would say: Listen to things the others have said about giving of your time and talents. Tithe. And give beyond that when you can/when God calls/maybe even when you ‘can’t.’


  • There’s been a lot of good things said already, and I don’t feel like I have the best advice to give you. However, I will say one thing: there’s been a lot said about whether or not you should tithe, but a surprising lack of scripture references… “You should tithe, yes, but you should not leave undone the more important things [justice, mercy, and faith]” says Jesus in Matthew 23: 23. He said this to the Pharisees who were careful to tithe from every little thing they had, but who had perverse hearts. The best advice I can give is to read the rest of that story and the story about the poor widow others have mentioned. Godspeed! 😉

  • Wow. This is such a huge question. And an important one. Let me just throw out a few things my family has discussed as Biblical principles related to finances in the Bible.
    1. Savings are important! Since before I can remember, ever earned dollar that came into my possession could not be used until it was split. 10% went to a tithe, 45% went into savings, and the remaining 45% I could spend. That’s a practice I still follow faithfully today. If I want to give beyond my tithe, it comes out of the 45% of spend money. (P.S. While I was taught to tithe, I do believe the New Testament gives us liberty in this area. We’re not tied down to the 10% thing, it’s just a good practice if you can adhere to it cheerfully.)
    2. Avoid debt. This one might step on toes, but the principle is in the Bible. It seems like everyone these days plans for debt. We’re expect to go into debt for school, vehicles, and homes. Once you go into debt, that money you may want to give is not really yours to give. It’s possible to go to college without going into debt. I completed an accredited bachelors degree for a total of $15k. Look into all your options. Don’t blindly follow the norms when it comes to debt.
    3. Budgets do wonders and you don’t have to have a consistent income to create one. I take my 45% spend money and divide it between an envelope budgeting system that has categories of Free Spend, Ministry, Gifts, Travel Money, etc. (And don’t forget to set aside money for taxes! If you’re earning money, even as a teen, you have to file them)
    4. Earlier this year I did a series on my blog about teens and their ability to give financially ( I’m also doing a series on giving of other treasures ( I hope those might be helpful to some of you!

  • There is SO much you can give! You can give your time, your love and so much more! When it comes to money you probably could give more money than you think. Keep your extra change in a special spot, it will add up. Also, you could, forego buying that item you have been saving up for to pay for a missions trip, help a needy family or buy a gift for the nextdoor neighbor who is disabled. Also try and live debt free, it will save you money in the long run. You can use that money to do lots of things. I know a family who live debt free and are going on a trip to Japan as a family to minister and stay with friends. I know another family who sold their huge house and lived in a camper to cut down on expenses. They are planning a trip to Africa to stay with missionary friends. So there is a lot you can do to use money for others.

    God bless.

  • Thank you to all of you who commented for your insight! I enjoyed reading each comment, they were all very helpful.

  • When we give, it doesn’t have to always be money. Perhaps for some teens, it is harder to give up time. Giving is sacrificing something, whether it be money, time, energy, or talents. And, when it comes to giving, we should do it willingly, having joy in being able to sacrifice a little, or a lot.

  • I agree with @disqus_pDKExTt6f6:disqus. Giving doesnt always have to be money, it can be time.
    When it is money, however, we are called to give graciously. Never hold back when God is telling you to give to someone. Remember that all this money is his, and he does provide.

  • This is a great discussion! I agree with so much of what people are saying. I think we as teenagers can take time for granted, because we don’t always have to schedule things ourselves. But giving you time and energy serving will be generous. I can be tempted to want to be doing something else while I am serving, but learning to enjoy taking time out of your day is a wonderful thing. We can also give financially.
    As a Christmas present, my parents are paying 5 months out of a year for a child sponsorship in my name. I have to pay the other 7 months, I don’t have a job yet, but will need to get some sort of paying job to pay the 35 dollars a month. It will be a little bit of a sacrifice to work and then give the money to someone else, but it will help me be wise with spending my money, a lesson I need to know more in.
    Being generous not only helps others, but it grows us spiritually.

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