“But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (John 3:17)
Giving and generosity should be the most fundamental character traits within each of us. There are many ways in which we can be generous and giving, some more obvious than others. We can give of our time, our money, our patience. Time is probably something which we could give to each other more generously. We are all so busy rushing to work, rushing to the childminder, rushing to prepare dinner, help the children with homework. Most of us are so caught up in the whirlwind of our own lives that it is easy to overlook the most important things. We are too busy to kiss our partner goodbye or hello, too busy to hug our children, too busy to listen to another’s problems.
There are so many lonely people in the world, that a few moments of our time given generously and genuinely could brighten their whole day. We all want to feel heard, but we need someone to take the time to listen and to hear us. We can listen non- judgementally, advise gently and love unconditionally. All of this can be a lot easier said than done, especially when our acts of generosity and giving are not necessarily appreciated. We should each try to actively and consciously approach life and our treatment of others in a generous way. If we become more aware of our actions we will find that being generous of heart and deed will become like second nature to us.
I feel ashamed of myself now to admit that I used to walk by people who were misfortunate enough to have to beg for money on the street. I would try not to make direct eye contact with them, but would look out of the corner of my eye in disgust and condemnation and a little embarrassment. I would wonder to myself why they just didn’t get a job like everyone else. Their begging annoyed me. I didn’t bother taking the time to ponder how they might have ended up in that situation.
Then one day, on my way to work, I heard a voice calling my name. I looked around wondering who was calling me, when I glanced down and into a vaguely familiar face from my past. It was Tom, an old acquaintance of mine from a few years ago at school. I asked him how he had ended up begging on the streets. He said he’d left school, gotten a job in an office, met his girlfriend and they’d had a child together.
Their child was severely handicapped and his girlfriend just couldn’t cope with looking after her so she left them. He quit his job to care for his child and eventually his savings ran out. He had to put the child into care and his life just went from bad to worse. He had no job and no way to pay the rent. He slept on his friends’ sofas for a while but he felt like he was quickly outstaying his welcome. One night he slept in a bus shelter and he had been begging on the streets and sleeping rough for the past few months.
I willingly gave him the money I had in my purse and made my way slowly to work. Meeting Tom was an epiphany for me. I realised how lucky and blessed I was in my life. It made me think how generous and giving so many people in my life were towards me every day. I took their generosity for granted, and didn’t appreciate how giving my family and friends were to me. I thought about the many poor people I had passed without even bothering or thinking to give them a penny. I felt thoroughly ashamed. I promised myself that I would never pass another person who seemed like they needed help without giving them something-my money, my time, even a kind word.
"Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day. And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too; and you will be like a well-watered garden, like
an ever-flowing spring. (Isaiah 58:10-11)
And the crowds asked [John the Baptist], "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." (NRSV, Luke 3:10-11)
The Bible tells us to share generously with those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We are not meant to live hard-hearted or self-centred lives. A greedy, miserly life leaves us devoid of anything but an empty craving for more possessions, more power or more status. What are possessions, status and power if our lives are empty of love and kindness and generosity? We should not look for a reward for our generosity. The look of thanks and happiness in another’s eyes should be reward enough.
He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses. (Proverbs 28:27)
We don’t have to drive ourselves into poverty in order to help others. We also have a responsibility to care for ourselves and our own needs. The Bible asks that we give generously of our wealth and abilities, regardless of how small the amount may seem. Even the smallest gesture of kindness can make a difference to someone in need.
"And [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a certain poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4)
We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-8)
We are all unique. We all have different God-given talents and gifts. Everyone has something to offer. A child can give his pocket money to the poor. We can give our time at the weekend to raising money for charity. We can tend to the sick, spend time with the lonely. We can make peace where there is trouble. We can give unselfishly and graciously of our time to our partner, children or parents. We may choose a job where we give of ourselves everyday, for example, nursing or teaching. We can also make an effort to go about our daily lives by giving respect and encouragement to others.
Some people might think that the more we give of ourselves to others, the poorer we become. We may have a little less time or a little less money, but when we give to others we bring meaning and fulfilment to our own lives in a way that all the money and possessions in the world can never match.
Jesus said, "For if you give, you will get! Your gift will return to you in full and overflowing measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use to give - large or small - will be used to measure what is given back to you." (Luke 6:38)
Our generosity and giving towards those less fortunate than us should be motivated by a sincere desire to help other people and to try to make their lives a little easier. We should not look for public recognition or congratulation in our efforts to help. We should try to cultivate humility and quiet in our actions.
"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full." (Matthew 6:1-2)
We all have something to give. Some people have riches, others have talents, and we all have time. We should try to generously share our God-given gifts, no matter how large or small they may seem. When we do give with a pure heart, we make life a little easier for someone else and find true meaning and lasting satisfaction in our own lives.
"Giving and Generosity" is an excerpt from the book, "My Love" by Joanne Clancy. If you would like to read more click here to buy the book at Amazon.