I Thought I Was Generous. I Was Wrong
I like to think I’m pretty generous.
So when the speaker at church announced Sunday that he’d be preaching on generosity, I didn’t expect to be challenged.
A Cheerful Giver
I sat there with my baby snuggled tightly to my chest in his baby carrier, opening my Bible to the passages called out and dutifully taking notes in the margins, though I knew this message wasn’t really for me, the generous one.
Our Bibles were open to 2 Corinthians 9:6-9. It’s the section the ESV titles, “The Cheerful Giver.” It says:
The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written,
“He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.”
I’d heard this passage many times before, usually in terms of giving financially. Then the speaker said this: generosity isn’t just about money.
That’s when I started to pay attention.
Introverted, or Stingy?
I’d never really thought of generosity outside of financial terms, silly as that sounds.
As the speaker Sunday reminded us, it’s giving of oneself out of love. Just like God the Father gave his only Son to us because he loved us.
That’s intense. And something I don’t like to do.
Usually, I chalk it up to being an introvert. I laugh at internet jokes about never wanting to leave my home to spend time with other people, as if it’s some cute quirk.
The reality isn’t cute.
Too often I put off the calls I should make to a friend. I “forget” to check up on my family member who is sick. I forever postpone visits I should pay, ignore the cards I should write, and “don’t have time” to volunteer or lend my ear. Not right now, anyway. Maybe in the future. “In a different season.” When I feel like it.
This isn’t because I’m an introvert. It’s because stingy. Stingy with my self.
Those Who Reap Bountifully
Staring at 2 Corinthians 9:6, my mind drifted toward people who are truly generous with themselves. We all know some. They’re the ones who don’t hesitate to invite you into their home for dinner, even if it wasn’t planned and their house isn’t spotless.
They’re the ones who mean it when they ask, “how are you?” And they don’t get annoyed when someone gives a real answer instead of a distant “fine.”
They’re the ones that will pull more than their weight when their friends, family, community or even strangers need them. Being there isn’t an option, or something they do the bare minimum of just to feel good. It’s who they are.
I could go on with examples, but chances are you’re already thinking of someone like this. And that person probably has lots of people who love them.
Sometimes I get jealous of such people.
Why do they have so many friends? Why do I never feel as connected as they do to people? What makes them so happy?
On Sunday, the truth hit me. Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
People who sow love bountifully will reap it bountifully. They will become rich in love. And that reward will be even greater in eternity, when they are surrounded by all the lives they touched.
A vision of my own future looked bleak in comparison: being sad, surrounded by few people if any. That’s reaping sparingly. Maybe it sounds like I’m being dramatic. I’m not. That is where I’m headed if I remain this stingy, covetous of the love others receive, but never willing to give it myself.
What Makes Generosity
God never fails to convict when we need it.
Once our pastor said if we’re thinking about how someone else should be paying attention to the sermon, it’s probably us that needs to hear it. He was right.
There I was, thinking I was generous, even bold enough to judge others for their greed and think of people I wished were there that day so that they could be convicted.
But the whole time, God was trying to get through to me. Sending a check to a nonprofit I like and feeling good about myself doesn’t make me generous. Giving of myself and loving till it hurts, like God gave of himself for all humanity, that will.