Perspective on Generosity…and Stinginess
One of my great desires during this time of sabbatical is that I will grow to be a more generous person—more generously receiving and more generously giving.
By “coincidence” one of the books I am reading during my sabbatical addresses this issue powerfully. In The Rest of God: Restoring Soul by Restoring Sabbath, Mark Buchanan comments, “‘The world of the generous,’ Eugene Peterson translates Proverbs 11:24, ‘gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller’ (The Message Bible). This is more than a principle of financial stewardship, it’s a basic truth of life. Generous people generate things. And, consequently, their worlds are more varied, surprising, colorful, fruitful. They’re richer. More abounds with them, and yet they have a greater thirst and deeper capacity to take it all in. The world delights the generous but seldom overwhelms them.”
That’s what I want in my life. Unfortunately, though, I tend to be more on the stingy side. Aaah! Listen to what Buchanan writes about stinginess: “Stinginess is parasitic, it chews life up and spits out bones. The stingy end up losing what they try so desperately to hold. As Jesus warned, those who store up treasure only on earth discover, too late, that such storage is merely composting…. Hoarding is only wasting. Keeping turns into losing. And so the world of the stingy shrinks. Skinflints, locked into a mind-set of scarcity, find that the world dwindles down to meet their withered expectations. Because they are convinced there isn’t enough, there never is.”
He applies this not just to our money and possessions, but also to our use of time. He suggests, “Generous people have more time. That’s the irony: those who sanctify time and who give time away—who treat time as gift and not possession—have time in abundance. Contrariwise, those who guard every minute, resent every interruption, ration every moment, never have enough. They’re always late, always behind, always scrambling, always driven. There is, of course, a place for wise management of our days and weeks and years. But management can quickly turn into rigidity. We hold time so tight we crush it, like a flower closed in the fist. We thought we were protecting it, but all we did was destroy it.”
Then he hits the real heart of the issue: “The taproot of generosity is spiritual. The apostle Paul, when he explains to the Corinthians about the astounding generosity of the Macedonians, remarks, ‘They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us’ (2 Corinthians 8:5). True generosity always moves in that sequence: first God, then others…. And it always starts with giving, not something, but ourselves.”
Good, challenging words for me!…. And perhaps for you.