The only path toward true Christian generosity is by denying the self and living according to Christ’s measure of love.
In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, theologian John Calvin (1509-1564) emphasized the importance of self-denial. In fact, Calvin thought that the practice of self-denial was the sum of the Christian life. Rooted in the words of Romans 12:1, Calvin argued that because we are not our own, we must forget ourselves and all that belongs to us. Since we belong to God, “…let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal [Rom. 14:8; cf. 1 Cor. 6:19].” Indeed, “as consulting our self-interest is the pestilence that most effectively leads to our destruction, so the sole haven of salvation is to be wise in nothing and to will nothing through ourselves but to follow the leading of the Lord alone.” (3.7.1)
As Calvin extrapolated on this point, he was particularly concerned with application in relation to our neighbors. As we consider our neighbors, who are each made in the image of God, we realize we owe them “all honor and love.” When our neighbor is in need, the image of God in them compels us to come to their aid. In fact, when we love our neighbor in this way, we will soon discover they are “worthy of your giving yourself and all your possessions.” (3.7.6)