I am blessed to be one of several trained First Responders through International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC – www.iocc.org) Frontliners Team. And, in training to be a First Responder in the field of emotional and spiritual care to victims of disasters, we learn some very valuable insights about caregiving and the dangers of caregiving. But what never ceases to amaze me is the way a disaster or some terrible event reveals the true nature of the people around us. As Nancy Gibbs once remarked “Virtue, like viruses, have their season of contagion. When catastrophe strikes, generosity strikes like a fever. Courage spreads in the face of tyranny.”
But what’s even more surprising is modern studies show a spike in feelings of happiness and joy when someone is generous. You actually get a rush of endorphins to the point that there is actual, physical pleasure in being generous. And this has become so widely understood that fundraisers are taught how to help people do what they already want to do but don’t know how – give til it feels good, not till it hurt!
Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 11:19-12:6:
He who is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die. Men of perverse mind are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight. Be assured, an evil man will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will be delivered. Like a gold ring in a swine’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion. The desire of the righteous ends only in good; the expectation of the wicked in wrath. One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. A liberal man will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it. He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it. He who trusts in his riches will wither, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. He who troubles his household will inherit wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, but lawlessness takes away lives. If the righteous is requited on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner! Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. A good man obtains favor from the LORD, but a man of evil devices he condemns. A man is not established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous will never be moved. A good wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones. The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are treacherous. The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers men.
Our purveyor of wisdom in Proverbs gives us (at least) 3 Joys of Generosity that will make you addicted to giving your life away!
First, The Joy of Riches. You see, the miracle of generosity is “one man gives freely, yet grows all the richer.” Of course the coarse way of looking at this is to degenerate the motives for giving to getting. But that’s not the joy. No, the true joy of generosity here is the riches are never reduced to mere stuff or money, but an abundant life that is free from the tyranny of greed! If you can have such a perspective towards your possession that they never posses you, then you are free to have them or not, and your life is at peace.
Next, The Joy of Virtues. A generous life is always thinking of others before herself. So, my moral choices aren’t motivated from some fear of punishment as they are from a heart so generous that you would never imagine living in such a way that would spiritually impoverish your neighbor! My moral choices are based on the Joy of Virtues precisely because I see how generous God has been to me!
Finally, The Joy of Hope. Generosity screams to all around you “I know Who holds my life, so I give freely knowing He will care for me forever!” The righteous man cannot be moved by the shifting fortunes of a passing life. His hope is set on the solid foundation of a Good God Who loves more than we know how to love!
Today, are you experiencing the Joy of Generosity? Are you so at peace that what you own never owns you? Can you be so free that you are free to become an icon of the generosity of God to all around you? You can and all you have to do is commit to being Orthodox on Purpose!