Generosity


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I spent a couple of hours today handing out candy for donations for the local Lion’s Club. It was a glorious fall day. I got a little exercise; and I raised some money for a good cause. The Lion’s Club provides hearing aids and glasses for those who cannot afford them and gives to local causes.

I am a multi-tasker, so every time I walked the line of cars before the light turned green, I picked up bits of litter on the way back. It did not take long to clear my little section of the world of litter, so I began to observe and think about the people who gave and the people who did not.

First, it really was easy to spend a couple of hours out of my week. In two hours, I gathered over $166 from other people’s dollars and loose change. Yes, many, many people just look straight ahead and drive on by. Most people did not give, but many did give. Imagine how much help could be provided for people who need it if more people spent a couple hours out of the week giving back!

I was only yelled at by one guy. “Get out of the road!”, he screamed.

I also noticed something. The people in really nice cars (the beamers, Mercedes, etc.) gave less often than the run-of-the-mill cars. If I saw a really nice car coming, I could almost count on not getting anything from that car. I few times I was proven wrong… only a few times.

Consider the quotation from an article in the Atlantic: “One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income.”(Why the Rich Don’t Give to Charity) More people give money that they cannot deduct from their taxes than people who can deduct the donations. The article suggests that “the personal drive to accumulate wealth may be inconsistent with the idea of communal support.” One reason for that is the greater exposure by people of lower socio-economic strata to the needs of others. Rich people also end to give to rich people causes. Rich people give to universities, elite prep schools, museums and art institutes – donations that come with publicity and names on the door.

The Bible has much to say about generosity:

  • One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. (Proverbs 11:24)
  • Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6)
  • Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:5-7)
  • Command those who are rich … to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

Jesus also told a story about giving. He saw the rich putting their gifts into the synagogue offering box followed by a poor widow who put in two small copper coins. Jesus said, “I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:3-4)

That story may be as much about giving as it is a comment about the exploitation of the poor. Consider all of the wealthy Christian ministries being propped up by needy widows while the dynamic benefactor lives in a mansion…. but that is a different topic.

I was struck today by the people who gave whose first language is not English. Mexican landscapers and people whose accents I could not identify. The most generous gift came as I gathered up the rest of the candy with the donation jug and the coffee cup full of the little bits of garbage I picked up. A man crossed the street fighting the traffic and hurried over to me with the largest bill I received in those two hours. He said, “God bless you!” in an accent that was unfamiliar to me, and I asked God to bless him back.

God blesses people who give generously.

We cannot take anything with us when we die. People who are wealthy in this world have their reward. I want a better reward. For me, I want always to be reminded that my treasure is where my heart is, and one measure of my heart is where my money goes. We can not serve God and money. We will short change one or the other. We give to God by being generous with other people.

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