I grew up in a family that didn’t talk much about money. I know that my parents gave regularly to the church, but I cannot tell you if they gave $1 or $1,000 each week. We never talked about it. I knew that giving was important, but I never knew exactly what that meant.
But I have had many mentors and examples that have shown what generosity looks like.
As I entered seminary, an older woman I knew told me that ever since she gave up smoking, she gave the money she would spend on cigarettes to a worthy cause. She told me this because she decided I would be her next worthy cause. And for all my years in seminary I would get a check for $25 each month. Think about that: she gave me $300 each year. That spoke so much to me about what generosity is all about.
At the church my wife and I served in Illinois, several examples of generosity happened as a result of adult servant trips to a clinic in Haiti. A doctor friend told me how he scheduled his vacation times so that he and his wife could serve together at the clinic twice a year. Another member shared how his experience encouraged him to structure his finances and invest differently so that he would have more to give to ministries like the clinic.
Then, there was a couple who had a large house with two teenagers. After going to Haiti, they decided to downsize their home so that they could give more money to ministries. To this day, that same couple gives money every single year so that a single mother with six children (three of them with special needs) may have school supplies at the beginning of the school year and that each might have Christmas presents under their tree.
When our oldest member of the church died — suddenly — at the age of 99 four years ago, she had arranged that a significant part of her money would go to the church. As a result, we have had an endowment that has helped our giving to the synod, helped support local ministries, and helped make improvements to our church.
And a pandemic has not stopped these stories of generosity. If anything, they have only thrown more light upon them. Recently, a member shared how age prevented them from doing many things, but they could still give as the needs arrive. As a result, they have helped with purchases for our virtual worship and for our “broadcast” worship service in the parking lot. When the preschool had to close in March due to the pandemic, some other members approached me and helped pay their paychecks for the rest of the school year.
We are surrounded by generous people who continue to teach us how to be generous. Each of these stories demonstrates what Paul declared to the Corinthians: “The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7) As one author I remember has put it, we are not called to give until it hurts. We are called to give until it feels good.
We are blessed. God has given us everything. We are called to live with an attitude of abundance. We are called to live with an attitude of generosity. As we give of ourselves, we will discover a joy that will only grow.
Who has taught you generosity? Who has shown you generosity? When and where has your generosity touched somebody’s life? How has generosity touched your life?
What story of generosity will be told about your life? How will you begin that story? How will you continue that story? Let us join the journey and find out.