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December 16, 2018: Being Generous with God

by Jeff Wells

 

The theme this week in our Advent daily devotional is Generosity with God. At the same time, our inboxes are constantly full of “opportunities” for us to give to any number of good causes. We’re all reading more and more these days about the power of gratitude to make us happy, but we’ve long known that giving has the power to grow our character and enrich our lives as well.  Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, discovered research that showed donors often ended up with more income after making their gifts.  Giving stimulated prosperity.  Psychologists know that donating and volunteering bring a host of benefits to those who give of themselves, such as improving “self-efficacy,” or the belief in your own ability to handle any situation and bring about a good outcome.  And scientists now say that our brains are actually wired for altruism—it’s what helps us survive as a species.

When we move from psychology and brain chemistry to faith, we see a plethora of Bible stories about people who give to others and to God.  As is the case with all of us, there are those who “just did it,” those who were reluctant but eventually did it, and those who did it after wondering whether it was really God who was calling them to do it.  The Bible even tells of those who refused God’s call, like the sad story of the rich young man who walked away from Christ because he couldn’t bear to give up his worldly possessions. 

Neither the Old nor the New Testament ever say giving to God or following God is easy.  But in all these stories, regardless of the eagerness or reticence of the giver, the constant is sure and sweet:  giving transforms us.  Through it we transcend our own selfishness and become a little more Christ-like, because we give of ourselves.  So let’s ask these questions during the seasonal busyness and our year-round gauze of social media-fueled self-absorption:  Is my own giving to God rote or is it sacrificial?  Is it about checking a box or is it about transformation? 

Over the years I have given to and served God through this parish in a variety of ways, from vestry service to Habitat for Humanity builds. I’m not terribly comfortable talking or even writing about it, but, when I think about it, giving money has probably made the biggest difference in my own spiritual life.  This surprises me, and I honestly don’t quite understand it.  My guess is that this giving is the most tangible, intentional, and constant (in my case monthly) reminder that I want our parish to flourish and that I am grateful to be a part of it.  In the end, who can put a price on being a part of a group that professes (as its sole goal)  “Becoming a beloved community?”

Last Published: December 13, 2018 2:04 PM
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