The first reference to giving and generosity as a spiritual gift is in Romans 12:8, a long list of spiritual gifts and how to use them “according to the grace given us” (Romans 12:6). The NIV terms the gift of giving as “contributing to the needs of others,” which is to be done generously.
In practice, we see a number of people in the Bible who are mentioned specifically for giving from their finances for ministry. Luke introduces us to three named women plus “many others” who were financially supporting Jesus and the disciples’ travels:
“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (Luke 8:1–3).
These verses set a pattern for ministry support, which we see again in Acts and the epistles (2 Corinthians 11:9; Philippians 4:15–18). The apostle Paul supported himself at various times through tentmaking but was also helped with specific financial gifts. Interestingly, Paul would decline a financial gift from the group to whom he was ministering but would accept a gift from a church in a different region.
Often, those with the spiritual gift of giving or generosity are good stewards of what they have and are prudent in investing and entrepreneurship. They may be wealthy or of modest means. The churches of Macedonia gave out of their “very severe trial” and “extreme poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:1–4). The widow who offered her two small copper coins at the temple gave all she had (Mark 12:41–44). Jesus pointed out her generosity as above and beyond what anyone else at the temple was doing.
As with all spiritual gifts, any giving or generosity should be for the “common good of the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Corinthians 14:12; Ephesians 4:12) and not for personal glory or recognition. The example of Ananias and Sapphira warns us not to give to be seen by others (Acts 5).
The spiritual gift of giving or generosity is different from regularly giving an offering. Nowhere in Scripture does it indicate that only people with the spiritual gift of giving are the ones to support a ministry. From the inception of the church, the giving of financial and other physical gifts has been a part of the sense of unity God wants for His body of believers (Acts 4:32–36).
Spiritual gifts are given and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:4; Hebrews 2:4), which means that even in giving or generosity it will be a God-given act of grace that empowers the gift and will be beyond the giver’s usual offering to a local body of believers. Examples may include donations to ministries and para-ministries for campaigns or capital needs; trusts and wills with specified amounts earmarked for missions, ministries, or churches; and investments in new ministry opportunities toward which God leads.