When we are Generous: A Counter-Cultural Difference

Posted by on Jan 22, 2023 in Blog | 0 comments

volunteer men having conversation to an elderly man

I’m finishing this brief series on the counter-cultural difference being a follower of Jesus makes by adding to the list of gratitude and providing a non-anxious presence that of being generous. Now I realise that some had hoped I would come out swinging against prevailing attitudes to things like sex and sin and sobriety, but I wanted to shift from passive morality to more active virtues… we are different through active gratitude, through actively leaving a sense of quiet confidence in the goodness of God and through being actively generous.

Why generous? It is seriously simple. Christians know that God has been outrageously generous to us. What you receive, you pass on.

While most of the readers of this blog know that I was for many years principal of Vose Seminary (now the Vose Campus of Morling College), I also spent some years as the principal of a Bible College in South Africa. Like most Bible Colleges, we were heavily dependant on the generosity of our supporters to balance our books. I met many extraordinarily people. I remember one of our donors coming to me, handing me an envelope, and saying, “Open it once I’ve left, but when you do, remember, that unless God exists, what I have just done is sheer madness.” I followed his instructions. Inside the envelope was a mind bogglingly large cheque. Even though he was a wealthy man, this was next level generosity. The Bible College had really needed his gift and our doors remained open. I was deeply grateful to him, and felt euphoric that God had used him to show such kindness and confidence in the ministry of the College. It was only as time marched along that I thought a little more about what he had said, “Unless God exists, what I have done is sheer madness.”

I think what he was getting at was that when you live as though God exists, you learn to take steps of faith that that are consistent with your belief. Trusting God with your finances is one of those steps. And after all, if God doesn’t exist giving away large sums of money and hoping you will still be OK is pretty reckless. But that’s the point. He was saying, “I do believe that God is real. I deeply believe it. So acts like this make perfect sense. Because if God is real and God can be trusted – well – then God is real and can be trusted and we must act like this is true.”

There are many ways we can be generous. While it often starts with money (perhaps because there is something so tangible about it), it usually flows into other areas of life as well.

Think about generous speech – where we care enough about the other to speak words that will build up and encourage. Now I am not talking about dismissive words, where we quickly say something nice knowing it is not really grounded in reality. I’m talking about being generous enough to notice and see the other person so that what we speak about is genuine, thoughtful and helpful.

While generosity is usually active, at times this is reversed and we dive into generous silence, where we don’t go on about what was wrong and we don’t tell the juicy story that would have won us an enthusiastic listenership. Sometimes generous silence isn’t about what we don’t say, but is about allowing the other person time to speak and reflect and be heard, as we become generous listeners rather than generous talkers.

Then there is being generous with our time. This is no small gift as time is one of the few non-renewable resources – we never get it back. Of course we can be stingy with our minutes and hours – simply turning up for a relative or neighbour because it is expected of us, but not really pouring anything into them. That is wasting time for both parties and is not generous. It is generous when we pour our creativity and love into it. It is generous when we allow the other persons needs and hopes to set the agenda and pace.

Behind all this is an obvious question begging to be asked. Why be generous? Simply put, it is the Jesus difference. It is because we live an accompanied life, and the One who lives within us helps us to see life with new eyes and a new purpose. “Me, myself and I” stops being the main refrain. That tiny trio if allowed to dominate is suffocating, and blinds us to the fact that God made us for so much more. It is why Jesus confidently taught: “Seek first God’s Kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt 6:33).

Because “all these things” are so generously provided by the Creator of all, why not take a step of faith and be counter-culturally generous this week?

As always, nice chatting…

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

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