Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Habit of Generosity

Box elders are like amazing trees to me. They grow into lovely trees, but they spread their seeds everywhere...I mean everywhere! And their seeds sprout very effectively---everywhere---usually where I don't want them in the garden. The first time I merely cut on off at its base I realized a few weeks later it sprouted another tree from the same plant. I tried cutting it a second time, but by the third time I realized I needed to take more drastic action, either I'd have to dig it up or spray it with herbicide (which I don't like doing) I went with the former. While it took care of that tree...I looked over to the other side of the garden only to see another box elder sprout trying to take hold. They are hard to get rid of.

Generosity is a great habit that usually conjures up images of money. And that is sad. Money is just one symptom of Generosity. Generosity, just like the box elder root goes much deeper than that. Take away the money and a generous person will still find a way to give. It could be in another way, like a new shoot...or in a new place, like a new plant. But money isn't the only way. Time, talent in addition to treasure just begin to scratch the surface of generosity

The other symptom of the habit of generosity is that it promotes others to be generous as well. "Paying in Forward" has become a popular phrase. It makes others WANT to be generous too. Whether it is buying a coffee for the next person in line, holding the door for someone with a load to carry, or dancing for nursing home residents to brighten their calls to your inner being begging the response, "Hey I can do something too! Let me do something!"

Another symptom of true generosity is one that almost flies in the face of modern thinking. It is humble silence, doing your giving in secret. Some donors love to see their names on plaques and in the news. Being a donor is not the same as being generous. Being a donor is what you see on the surface, generosity is a state of the heart. And most challenging of "Can I give generously and not be recognized?". This is hard. But God always sees and always knows if our giving is really generosity or just a ridding ourselves of excess.

Generosity also requires our best. Donating our junk is not generosity. Giving of our best is. When I was little my father received 3 coats every few years from work, one for spring, one mid weight one, and one parka complete with fur-like trim. While they were ugly, they were serviceable and my father didn't mind wearing them. He saw a Carhartt coat and he saved up for it. He was so pleased when he came home wearing it. The next day was Sunday. It was a cold blustery day. He showed it off to friends at church. He was happy for God's goodness in providing him a coat. And then...he looked over as an elderly man in our church came in with no coat. My dad was friends with him and went over to talk to him. He asked him where his coat was on such a blustery day, he replied that it had been stolen at the local homeless shelter. With nobody else around, I watch my father take off his new coat and give it to the man. The next day, he went back to wearing his "ugly" coat. He told me, "Next year work will give me 3 more coats to replace these. He needed it more than me." My dad realized that God had him save up for a yet-to-be need long in advance, so that he could bless the other man. He gave his quiet...and only God (and me as a young girl with a lesson to learn) saw.

When generosity is boiled down to its main ingredient, it is the recognition of this truth: None of time, talent or treasure is really ours. Time is a gift from God. Our talents are gifts from our Creator. Our treasure is just stuff on loan from His storehouses. When we give with generosity we are really reflecting back the great God who is always more generous to us than we can see or understand. We reflect His grace and mercy. And when this becomes a habit, like the box elder seeds, it cannot be stopped.... because no matter what our circumstance we will find a way to be generous and bless others with our best, quietly, with everything we've been entrusted with.

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