the challenge of generosity

the challenge of generosity
Photo by Tim Mossholder / Unsplash

Here's a question to ask early and ask often: what does it cost to be generous?

Let's explore that question for the rest of this post.

remember encouragement?

Here's one of the best posts I've written:

We have access to the tool that causes happiness and peace to grow and enables it to be shared with everyone around us: it’s called encouragement.

The opening quote has stuck with me for a long time:

Be hearty in approbation and lavish with sincere praise. Understand what other people desire and help them achieve it. Live your life so that others come first. Listen more than you speak. Never argue; there's no such thing as "winning" an argument: everyone involved loses.

Happiness is not a finite resource. Neither is encouragement. But what about generosity? Generosity seems to be one thing where you're guaranteed to lose something. How can you be generous and not end up with the worse part of the deal? Is generosity always a win-lose situation?

back to luke 12

I'm afraid I'm in a rut with Luke 12, but it still sticks with me even after all these months.

Luke 12:22-34, 42-48
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also...

...“Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But suppose the servant says to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time in coming,’ and he then begins to beat the other servants, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers....
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

God will provide what we need. We don't need to worry about it. From Job, we learn that we're not good at understanding what we need, but that doesn't change the fact that he will provide.

Jesus points out that the obvious reaction to God caring for us is to sell our possessions and give them to the poor. That's wild and it doesn't make any sense. Jesus clarifies exactly what he means: we are God's servants. We, as humans, are in charge of everything on Earth (see Genesis 1:28-29). We, as individuals, are in charge of everything God gives us. Using Jesus' metaphor, we're supposed to "give Gods' servants their food allowance at the proper time." In Luke 6:30, Jesus tells us that the people we're meant to give to are "everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back."

That sounds really stupid. If I give to everyone who asks of me, I'll end up poor and destitute, won't I? If I give things away, who will take care of me? Well... Consider the ravens and consider how the wild flowers grow.

here's the challenge

Here we go! This is a crazy challenge. For seven days from now, give to everyone who asks of you. If you find it's too hard, you can stop, but I challenge you to expand your definition of, "too hard." With a little practice at fasting, we've learned that we can go a day without food. How much more can we go a day without things that aren't necessary for life?

I think you'll be surprised by how rarely people ask for things, how little they ask, and how easy and beneficial it is to live generously. As we explore the next section of Foster's book, we'll find out just what it means to live simply and abundantly with everything you need.

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