Generosity as a Way of Life

generosity - John Wesley

Generosity is at the heart of any good family, neighborhood, workplace, organization, church, and individual.  To be generous is to reflect the image of God, who gave of himself on our behalf.

We often associate being generous with giving a handout or money to someone or some organization in need.  It is that, but much more.  Generosity doesn’t have to do with the size of our check or the amount of our contribution.  We can be generous with our time, abilities, words, and with what little or much we have of money, as well.  Generosity means to go above expectations – to give with magnanimity, or to go out of your way to do good when no one is looking – and experience giving as its own reward.

Jesus with outstretched arms

Jesus embraced generosity as a way of life while he was here on this earth.  No one expected him to go out of his way to call the least, the lowly, the lost, and the last of society.  The people on the margins of respectable culture had no expectations that the Messiah would head their way.  But he did.  Christ the Lord even went so far as to hang out with the despised tax collectors, and freely talk with sexual deviants.  The high brows of society couldn’t raise their eyebrows high enough for Jesus.  It was just too much for them.  Not only was Jesus making them look bad with his generosity as a way of life, he was, in their minds, giving to the wrong sort of people.

The generous person follows the Master by surveying the landscape of human need and giving to people in places where no one expects a handout.  Let’s keep in mind an interesting tidbit of Gospel trivia: we don’t have the Lord Jesus giving money to anyone except his taxes to the hated Roman Empire.  The Lord lived a simple life with little to no money.  He largely depended on the generosity of others.  Yes, my friend, generosity is a two-way street.  Being generous to others is the easy part for many people; receiving the generosity of other people is often much harder.  Yet, Jesus did both – give and receive.

Jesus gave in ways which were according to his Father’s will.  He gave of his time, his divine ability to heal and forgive, and he was perhaps the most magnanimous person of all-time in his generosity of compassion, kindness, love, and humble service to others.  The height of Christ’s generosity was in giving his life so that you and I could live a life free from the power of sin.  Such deliverance through the cross is offered and given, free of charge.  That’s over-the-top generous.

You don’t need to be rich to be generous.  A large and expansive heart always finds ways to have a generosity of spirit wherever it goes.

Think about some ways you can embrace, like Jesus, generosity as the true path of living your life.  Waiting for someone to ask you to serve or be generous betrays a heart that still needs some softening.  Jesus warned against being generous to be noticed:

“When you do good deeds, don’t try to show off. If you do, you won’t get a reward from your Father in heaven.  When you give to the poor, don’t blow a loud horn. That’s what show-offs do in the meeting places and on the street corners, because they are always looking for praise. I can assure you that they already have their reward.  When you give to the poor, don’t let anyone know about it. Then your gift will be given in secret. Your Father knows what is done in secret, and he will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4, CEV)

Instead, take some initiative and give because that’s what genuine generosity is about.

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To get you started and take some steps, here are some suggestions that might resonate with you:

  • Offer to babysit (for free) so that a young couple can have a date night. If you really want to be generous, give them money for dinner.
  • Donate a service or product, and don’t mind alerting the media about it.
  • Next time it snows, shovel or snow-blow your neighbor’s sidewalk and driveway.
  • With Lent almost here, commit to giving one possession away each day of the 40 days leading up to Easter.
  • Make small packets containing water, a protein bar, dry shampoo, and other food or products for the homeless. Keep them in your car, and hand them out when needed (got this one from my daughter).
  • Look for ways to help your struggling co-worker with his/her responsibilities.
  • Instead of looking for your boss to give you an “at-a-boy,” give a generous word of encouragement to him/her.
  • Walk across the room and meet a new person and spend time in conversation, instead of looking to shmooz with someone well-known and/or respected.
  • Make a meal for the most unpleasant person on your street. Go above and beyond with several courses of food.
  • During the 40 days of Lent, write a note of gratitude to a different person each day. Be generous with your words.
  • Find a person you think has lots of potential but few resources. Get to know them better and be generous with your experience and help.
  • Volunteer at the local hospital or nursing home in whatever capacity they need.
  • Yes, tip your server! Give just as much or more to the person who gave you poor service; you don’t know what kind of day they had (you could ask!?).
  • Read a book on simplicity this year.

You get the idea.  There are dozens of ways to live a generous life and bless others with your unique combination of gifts, abilities, time, and money.  Generosity usually doesn’t just happen by chance; it’s an intentional giving to another based on the disposition of your heart, which seeks to go above human expectations to glorifying God with everything you have.

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