As someone who has spent most of my adult life either as a police officer or in the nonprofit world, I can tell you, generosity is both addictive and life-giving. It really is. Studies have shown that there are real psychological changes in someone’s behavior and mood when they are generous. And it seems we Americans are more generous than ever, but our generosity is changing.
In the past few years, there’s been a concerted effort to create something called #Giving Tuesday. This was started to compete with the “Black Friday” shopping frenzy after the Thanksgiving holidays and to remind people that Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays about gratitude, not mere consumption. Well, it’s a good intended effort. And still, most nonprofits know that their yearly budgets are raised during the last 6 weeks of any given year.
So, as Orthodox Christians, what is the medicine that the Faith offers us to develop a healthy generosity?
Look at our lesson in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11:
Brethren, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
St. Paul lays out for us the Normal Orthodox Way to develop a healthy generosity in our everyday lives.
First, Reaping and Sowing. Sadly this idea has been so very much abused by some in American Christianity. Some have suggested that this has everything to do with “how much” you plant. But there is more to it than that shallow idea! Reaping and sowing take thought, planning, purpose, and a sober mind. This principle of generosity flows from knowing about the Faith you are investing your whole life into. And when you know the Treasure you possess, you are given the insight into how that Treasure should be valued with your everyday life. If you show by your life, your Faith is merely a hobby, you shouldn’t be surprised when it produces so little effect in your life. By the way, your children see this too!
Next, Freely Give. Shame, manipulation, and guilt will NEVER produce generosity. Never. Sadly, most of us make excuses about this reality in our lives. The most negative comments from my preaching and teaching come when I talk about money and finally funding the Church as the Church deserves to be funded. And that’s because people are either suffering from the notion they “have to” or they are wounded from being “forced to.” Out of that challenge flows all kinds of bad attitudes toward our possessions or priorities for our giving. When you see your giving change from being based on “need” and being motivated by “gratitude” you will become a generous person.
Finally, Giving Cheerfully. The actual Greek word can be translated “hilariously.” Isn’t that delightful? God wants us to give from a “hilarious heart.” That heart will only be created in your chest from Faith and Love. When you are so convinced that God loves you and that He is caring for you, you will be free to hold your life loosely in your hands instead of gripping your possessions to you in an attempt to “ease” your fear of the future. When you give like God gives, then you are truly generous.
Today, what kind of “giver” are you? Are you attentive to the power of generosity to make you like Jesus Christ? Normal Orthodoxy is a generous and purposeful Orthodoxy. Is that who you are?