I’m learning that there’s new buzzword in the larger church. Generosity. How do we in our churches create an atmosphere of generosity? The last church stewardship campaign I was involved with was over 7 years ago. It’s a different world now. Churches are struggling, large and small, just to stay above water. It’s not easy right now. Especially for churches that at one time were the big kids on the block and were able to be very generous with their resources and now can’t even pay their bills.
I think before we can even create a space for generosity inside the church, we need to learn what it means to be generous with those outside of the church who don’t look like us, smell like us, think like us, sound like us, or act like us. This is where we get stumped as Christians. We think the only people we should be serving are those who are like us. Unfortunately, our generosity comes sometimes with with strings attached.
For example, I always feel uncomfortable, when we require folks to jump through hoops, just to get some food. How come we can’t just feed the hungry without paperwork? The question I also get sometimes is, “What about the person who drives up to the food pantry in their BMW.” Honestly? I don’t want to be the guy who says no. God knows any of us could be that guy on any given day of the week.
Generosity doesn’t come with strings attached. It means you just do it. You give because you can and if you can’t, you figure out other ways to give of your time as well as your talents and it means we don’t beg people to give. I’ve heard the, “all you do is ask us for money, which makes me feel uncomfortable.” What makes us feel uncomfortable is that there is some risk. Risk is scary, but it’s part of following the one who saves us, rejoices over us, and provides for us every day. What’s it mean for the Church? It means the Church needs to create a culture that is centered on loving others as Jesus loved and where giving is assumed because of our love for Christ and for our neighbor. When we’re loving as Jesus loved, there aren’t any strings attached.
I know I’ve shared this in the past. Clark was an old guy at the church I grew up in. When I was in my late teens, he invited me to come live with he and his wife with the condition that I’d begin taking courses at the local community college. Although Clark passed away a few years ago, I could never repay Clark back what he and his wife gave to me. What he gave me though was an example of generosity with no strings attached.
Generosity has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with our willingness to love as Jesus loved. It means being ready and open. It means risking a little and being imitators of God, with the hopes that others will want to experience first hand the generosity of God that we experience each and every day in the form of grace and mercy.
I Timothy 6:17-19 17 “As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.” NRSV