Friday, March 23, 2007

Generous living

Today's reading from the Proverbs is all about this:
24One man gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
25A generous man will prosper;
he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
26People curse the man who hoards grain,
but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell.
Proverbs 11.24-26
I heard an odd story about a couple who took in a foster child. They discovered after a while that the boy was hiding food all over his room -- in the dresser, under the bed, etc.; it took them a while to figure out what was going on, and why, and quite a while longer before it stopped.

This boy had lived out on the street for some time, and as one might imagine, did not always have enough food (or anything else for that matter). So whenever he had a little extra, which was pretty much every day in this middle-class home, he stashed some away against what we'd call a "rainy day." He recognized that his foster parents gave him everything he needed, but it took some time before he felt sure in his heart that they were going to keep on doing so. Only then did he stop stashing food away in corners.

When I act and feel like a miser, how am I any different from this little boy? I'm acting as though I don't trust my heavenly father to provide my needs, as if he would bring me all this way to drop me off a cliff or something. I'm hiding stuff away that God wants me to share.

And by the way, it's not just money; it's commodities, possessions, time, including the willingness to listen and empathize.

For me, the struggle involves the feeling of scarcity. How much money is enough? How much time? "Just a little bit more," right? When my heart is where the Lord wants it to be, then I think about the hope that he's called me to, the riches of the glorious inheritance he has prepared for me, I'm filled with the knowledge of God and my heart is overflowing with thankfulness. With that frame of mind and heart, I'm aware of the riches I have in Christ and generosity flows out of me.

How do I get to be more like that more of the time? Well, I'm not sure, but I'll tell you what I've tried. I don't know that this practice has made me more generous, but I suspect that neglecting it would have made me more of a miser. So here it is: I think about people who have less than I do, especially people that I can identify with. If I think of someone whose wife or child has some condition requiring expensive treatment, whose medical coverage doesn't -- or doesn't quite cover enough of the cost, the guy doesn't have to be irresponsible or a spendthrift to end up bankrupt and homeless. And I think about the many many things I have to be thankful for.

Basically, in other words, I think about what I've received and where it came from. All that helps me to be more thankful and to feel fortunate (rather than virtuous or prudent or some such). Which helps me to be a little less of a miser.

I hope it keeps working.

posted 3/24

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