The Generosity of God
Each year our community is invited to read a book together for the “Virginia Yerxa Read” program. This year’s book is The Book of Joy, based on conversations between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. According to the book, one of the foundations of joy is generosity.
Archbishop Tutu comments, “I’ve sometimes joked and said God doesn’t know very much math, because when you give to others, it should be that you are subtracting from yourself. But in this incredible kind of way—I’ve certainly found that to be the case so many times—you gave and it then seems like in fact you are making space for more to be given to you.”
The two spiritual leaders go on to stress that we are wired for generosity. The author of the book, Douglas Abrams points out, “The reward centers of our brain light up as strongly when we give as when we receive, sometimes even more so…. Richard Davidson and his colleagues have identified that generosity is one of the four fundamental brain circuits that map with long-term well-being…. Generosity is even associated with better health and longer life expectancy. Generosity seems to be so powerful that, according to researchers David McClelland and Carol Kirshnit, just thinking about it ‘significantly increases the protective antibody salivary immunoglobulin A, a protein used by the immune system.’”
Abrams adds, “So it seems that money can buy happiness, if we spend it on other people. Researcher Elizabeth Dunn and her colleagues found that people experience greater happiness when they spend money on others than when they spend it on themselves.” (p. 263-265)
I share this because of what Jesus says to us in Matthew 7:7-11: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!”
If we are, as Scripture stresses, made in the image of God, and if we, though fallen and scarred by sin, are wired for generosity, how much more is God by nature inclined to share generously His goodness with us!
What this tells me is that I need to take to heart that I am the beloved child of a heavenly Father who delights in sharing generously with me all that I may need for each day—not necessarily material blessings, for God is concerned with things that are far more important and essential to me than material blessings. I need to live each day in trust that God loves me, is with me, and will provide for my needs for the day.
And what this tells me is that I should be sharing generously with others. No wonder Jesus goes on, in the next verse, to say, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”