We want you to know, brethren, about the grace of God which has been shown in the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord and to use by the will of God. II Corinthians 8: 1-5
Things tend to run in cycles. People who optimistic tend to stay optimistic. People who are organized tend to stay organized. And people who are generous tend to stay generous.
Generosity means being plentiful when it comes to giving. One who is generous with money gives liberally to others. One who is generous with time offers it plentifully to others.
Generosity in giving doesn’t really correlate to that amount of something one has to give. Those with riches are not necessarily the most generous when it comes to sharing them.
Generosity is more of a disposition of the heart. A generous person has a large heart, when it comes to giving. A generous person sees a need outside himself or herself and runs to fill it. A generous person often thinks of others before themselves. A generous person thinks more about the joy of giving something than the cost of giving it.
How does one become generous? There is a correlation between gratitude and generosity. If I am always desiring more, rather than being grateful for what I have, it becomes harder to be generous with what I have. If I am grateful for what I have, then it is easier to be generous with it.
What makes us more grateful? When we begin to see the good things in life as blessings from God. If I see today as a gift from God, and I am grateful for the gift, then it is easier to offer part of this day to helping someone else. If I see the ability to earn income as a result from a talent than came from God, then I am grateful for the God-given talent that allows me to earn an income and then I’m more likely to be generous in giving to charity.
What stifles gratitude? The answer is entitlement. If I see every day and every dollar as things I am entitled to, then I will be less likely to give away anything that is “mine.” If I see my talents as having been earned, rather than having been entrusted to me by God, then I am less likely to share them.
Thus gratitude and generosity go hand in hand. Those who are more grateful are more generous.
In today’s verses from II Corinthians 8, Saint Paul speaks of the witness of the churches in Macedonia, which were beset by poverty. People struggled to make ends meet and to put food on their tables. Yet, when the call went out for the churches to support the church in Jerusalem, it was the poor Macedonians who stepped up to the table first. Despite their “severe test of affliction” and “extreme poverty”, they had an “abundance of joy” and “overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. (II Corinthians 8:2) Ironically, it is often people who have the least that are willing to share the most, perhaps because they best understand what it is like to have nothing and to feel grateful for whatever little they have.
There are two memories that come to mind about generosity of people who were poor. I remember one Sunday, we asked for some help for someone who was very down on their luck and desperately needed some money. I put an envelope in the front of the church and told people to put whatever they wanted in the envelope on their way out and that I would give it to the person after church. Of course, the person who was going to receive this money didn’t realize I was collecting for them (I’ve left the gender out intentionally). They thought I was collecting for someone who was really poor. They came up and put $5 in the envelope for the “poor person.” Others put in $1. When everyone had left, I found the person and gave them the envelope. Of course, they were surprised and very appreciative.
On another occasion, someone who was dressed rather poorly came to the office asking “to see the pastor.” Most of the time, it is someone who needs something, sometimes food and often-times money. While our church operates a food pantry, we have a policy that we don’t give out cash, which upsets many people who come by looking for money. I assumed, looking at this person, that they were going to ask me for money. To my surprise, they said they were having a bad day, and just needed some encouragement and prayer, which I was happy to offer. About a week after this encounter, I received a card from this person in the mail. It read “Thanks for your help the other day. I wanted to give you a gift to thank you for your time. It’s just a dollar but it’s all I can afford.” I felt ashamed as I read this card, because I had prejudged someone, and because, realizing they barely had any money to their name, that they would go buy a card, mail it and put a dollar gift in it, this was a significant expense for them.
It’s not necessarily those who have the most that give the most. Generosity is based more on what’s in your heart than what is in your wallet. Gratitude spawns generosity. And God expect us to be people of generosity, to have hearts that are generous.
Lord, thank You for all that I have. Everything that I have that is good is a gift from You. Help me to be appreciative for all that I have. Help me to have a heart that is generous, and eyes that recognize those who need some generosity. Amen.
Gratitude spawns generosity!