I’m happy to report if you were in a central Florida drive-thru this past week and the car ahead of you picked up your tab, you were the recipient of a friend taking part in the generosity project. I love what she thought after she decided to pay for the car behind her. “I thought, ‘what if they’re buying food for their whole office and the bill is $100?!’ Had to say to myself that the amount doesn’t matter. I have to go through with it. I did.”
This story is great news. We are learning that generosity is an art. Art, because it takes some creativity and a willingness to believe that generosity is giving liberally even if we’re still learning to be generous. We can’t predict the impact of generosity, or at times the cost of it, but it’s a beautiful thing when it’s done.
For the more formulaic people out there, though, there does seem to be a formula to generosity that can’t be denied.
Generosity = you have something to give + you give it + unselfishly.
I like the first two parts. But the addition of the third word makes me a little uncomfortable.
Unselfishly. As in, no selfishness. Being selfish is not part of the equation of generosity. This stings a little bit.
If giving generously is an art, then doing it without any self-centered motives has to be an act of God. I mean, do we really WANT to give things away and expect NOTHING in return? Impossible.
We can’t help ourselves. We love to see the faces of people who open our presents. We file our receipts when we give to charity. We give blood to blood banks, bone marrow to a sister, money to a ministry, but we don’t not really expect something in return. Of course we do! We expect it to make us feel better. To hear that someone lived because of it. Someone came to know Jesus because of it. An orphanage was built, a life was saved, a day was blessed. We want to know that our generosity was for good.
Generosity is giving unselfishly. As in, keeping no part of it for yourself. Not giving any of it to expect a reward for yourself. It’s an unselfish act.
So far, my generosity project has largely centered around being a little less stingy with my funds and thinking through my motives behind giving anything away. These baby steps have gotten me up on my legs…and like my son, Cohen, learning to walk behind the wheel of a push toy, my legs are still a little shaky on the subject as I still want to keep most everything for myself.
However, the baby steps are opening my eyes to life-changing acts of generosity. Absolutely, paying for a meal, OR THE MEAL OF SOMEONE YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW IN A DRIVE THRU!!!, or tipping generously your friend’s coworker, or letting someone in front of you in line at Chik Fil A even though you are starving are all very, very good steps towards generosity. But dang it, if the hardest acts of generosity are still to be learned.
So, a few other areas where we can be generous.
Like maybe, in the area of holding a grudge. Well, it makes sense to hold a grudge. Someone did something to hurt you, and it feels so good to hold a grudge. Said no one ever. Anyone I know who holds a grudge is not thriving in this area. It’s a hard, disappointing place in their life. But they hold the grudge anyways. Like keeping the last oreos for themselves (I would know nothing about this), it feels good sometimes to keep it all to yourself and dangle forgiveness in front of someone who may (or may not) want it. But, it’s kinda selfish, huh? Forgiveness is an act of generosity. When we do give liberally and unselfishly, what usually comes with it is what we all “fretted” the entire time – freedom. By far, my best example of huge, generous forgiveness is Renee Napier’s story, please read it here.
Or maybe in the area of jealousy. It makes sense to be jealous of someone who has something you don’t have. A nicer second car (again, I would know nothing about this), or when someone gets a promotion, or when someone has a friendship that you want. Confronting the truth of jealousy is accepting you are not being generous with your happiness for others nor for yourself.
Carrying around a grudge or jealousy keeps the generosity project within you at bay. It’s hard to give when you aren’t happy for others around you…or even for your own self.
I’m thinking a little bigger this week. Like Cohen who is likely to take his first big, bold step soon by himself, I am adding a new level of generosity to the ‘ole project.
This week let’s think big about where generosity needs to spill over into your heart and mind and perhaps into your relationships.
Let’s take a big, bold step towards becoming generous and see where we can add unselfish to the equation.