The Paradox of Generosity

There’s one sure way for any politician to get an applause line in a stump speech. All he or she has to do is say “I support our troops!” And rightly so. The brave men and women who serve in our military perform a vital function in the preservation of our liberty, and we, as a nation, should always show our gratitude for their sacrificial service.

The truth is freedom isn’t free, and it never has been. Freedom, in a world so easily gripped by domination, ego, and self-interest, is always hard-won and must be diligently guarded with constant vigilance.

What is true of our constitutional government, is also true of our spiritual lives. Our freedom from the slavery of our own undisciplined desires requires us to “fight”, to war against, the entropy of slavery so unnaturally present in our selfish hearts. We must be transfigured away from this decay of soul if we ever hope to pull out of the gravitational tug toward the baser existence of our lives.

One of the greatest enemies of our spiritual freedom and even our political freedom is the cancer of greed. A lack of a purposeful and deliberate development of a spirit of generosity is THE quickest way to become slaves to our selfishness. But, that isn’t our true self. We all know that generosity is always best. We KNOW it. You know it. Don’t you?

Look at our lesson today in Matthew 10:1, 5-8:

At that time, Jesus called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity. These twelve Jesus sent out, charging them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay.”

The Lord instructs His disciples to get out there and start spreading spiritual freedom around to everyone. Notice, first He gives them the power to do this work and then He tells them to get to it. But He ends His instructions with a phrase that reveals the heart of the matter AND the path to continue having the power to do this work of spiritual freedom. He tells them “You received without paying, give without pay.”

A spirit of generosity will never be truly present based on sentimentality or pity. Those emotions and motivations can and do create the opposite effect – bitterness and resentment. No, true generosity is always based on the sure knowledge that what I have has been a blessing from God. Even the energy and intellect I possess to be productive and achieve is given to me, not earned! I certainly can and should develop my gifts, but even that strength to do that is a gift from God! Generosity will only exist in a heart convinced that “I am a debtor to love.” The disciples were meant to do all this good work based on the eternal truth that what I have been given MUST be given away if I am ever going to enjoy what I’ve been given! In fact, I won’t be able to keep what I’ve been given if I don’t give it away!

It is the paradox of true generosity that it is giving away what I’ve been given that allows me to enjoy what I’ve been given.

In a world where “he who dies with the most toys wins” mentality tends to dominate, this mindset of generosity seems naive and foolish. To be sure, it does appear that way. But if I am ever going to be free, truly, spiritually, free, I am going to have to abandon the hoarder mentality and realize that freedom isn’t free. The price I must pay for my freedom is a willingness to be generous. Without this central principle in my life, I will remain a slave.

Today, are you a generous person? It is insightful that when you hear this, your first thought will be about money. And that is a primary icon of our generosity. But I have witnessed very poor people being generous; generous with their time, their love, their patience, and their understanding. This spirit of generosity will and must certainly affect your pocketbook, but that is only because it has first transformed your heart and mind. Today, you have freely received, freely give. Not an option, dear one. Freedom isn’t free. Today, BE generous and you will be Orthodox on Purpose!

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