November 22, 1997 in Features

Divine Generosity Can Surprise Us

Paul Graves The Spokesman-Revie
 
Tags:column

The first Thanksgiving meeting of the Order of the Generous Heart is now in session.

Be careful, though. You may not want to join.

It isn’t always easy to be generous. In fact, we need to be quite deliberate about growing generous hearts.

Some folks are frightened away by the awesomely generous God we try to worship. Yes, you heard me right. Some people are put off by a generous God.

Others are put off by those who try to live in generous ways because they believe in his generosity.

I remember the finance committee chairwoman in a church I served years ago. She quit her position - and the church. I believe it was because we had a very successful finance campaign and because she didn’t want to be around optimistic, generous people. I still feel badly for her.

The deep pain in her life soured her so much. She couldn’t stand to see others enjoy life when she felt it was nothing more than a burden. I hope she has discovered God’s generosity is available to heal her, not to shame her.

She remains a continual reminder to me that we must be deliberate in growing generous hearts. Being radically generous is never an easy thing to do. That’s why we need the Order of the Generous Heart!

We need help to be generous in how we treat one another, strangers and family members alike. We also need gracious help to be generous in how we treat ourselves in the most intimate parts of our souls.

How about turning to each other for support and encouragement? That’s why my imaginary Order of the Generous Heart might be worthy of real people signing up for it in some way.

Yet that isn’t where the order must begin. It begins with the generosity of God.

The generosity of God’s covenant began with Abraham, the earliest of the Hebrews. It was evident when God’s faithfulness stood up to the monotonously predictable faithlessness of Abraham and all his ancestors - up to and including all of us.

We can hear Jesus say to us faithless: “Don’t worry about tomorrow.” “Don’t be anxious about what you will wear or eat.”

Do we really listen to his words? Do we know he wants to transform our faithlessness and fear into an experience of generous trust in God’s faithfulness and love? I would like to think so.

It’s relatively easy to work out what “being generous” looks like in our lives. That’s daily work for most of us.

Some may work toward being generous with material gifts or with time. We may share the skills we’ve gained, the ears that have learned to listen, the eyes that have learned to smile and show love.

We can also learn how to give ourselves generously to others. “What” and “how” are relatively simple to learn and practice. It’s a kind of behavior modification.

What challenges most of us is to accept the generosity of God in the first place! (I seem to get back to this quite often, don’t I?) Jesus’ words about not caring or being concerned with the necessities of life are a radical call to live life in new, trusting ways.

His isn’t a call away from common sense and basic prudence. Rather, it’s a call away from the attempt to be secure primarily through our own human effort.

Jesus’ call is for radical (rooted) trust in God’s generosity. It becomes a basic solution to the anxiety of tomorrow.

Even when we’ve attained our goals of tangibles and values, we still tend to ask, “Is that all there is?” The promise is unfulfilled in its fulfillment, and our anxiety returns.

Do you know when “enough really is enough”? It’s a good first signal you are becoming generous not only with what you have but with who you are.

It isn’t easy for most of us to be generous. Not at all. It requires far more of us than we think we can give.

Some need to regularly ask: How much of ourselves can we give to others before we’ve depleted our very being?

But when we have eyes that see and hearts that know, the generosity of God keeps surprising us. We are able to share more generously with others.

It may not be because we have more than enough. Rather, we become increasingly generous because the more we experience God’s generosity, the more deeply we know that we simply are enough.

That’s when the meetings of the Order of the Generous Hearts can really get exciting. Our generosity has become easier not because we have enough, but because of God’s radical generosity, we are learning to trust that we fare enough!

xxxx

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Paul Graves The Spokesman-Review

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