Generosity is the ability to anticipate a need and the courage to meet it.
Like many pastors in the United Methodist Church I am in a season of transition. I have said goodbye to a wonderful and generous congregation and I am looking forward to saying hello to the next. Any anxiety about the transition was eased as I experienced another great outpouring of love and generosity from the new congregation. Each day as boxes surround us there is a knock on the door with a friendly face bringing us a meal. It is a simple yet powerful act of generosity. We look around our world and so often see and focus on the harm we cause to one another. What if we found the good and focused on the healing and help that we can also bring to one another? How can we be more generous?
First, it is important to remember that this is a gift from God and that certain people excel in it more than others. In the movie Good Will Hunting, the main character uses a great metaphor to explain his uncanny natural ability to understand organic chemistry. He is able to “just play.” When Mozart or Beethoven saw a piano they were able to just play while others might have seen a box with a bunch of keys. I think that when it comes to generosity, some are able to just play more than others.
Generosity is the ability to anticipate the need. To be more generous
- You have to see the need.
It never fails that when I am trying to find something, it’s been under my nose the whole time. Sometimes we just don’t see very clearly. We see as dimly in a mirror (1 Cor 13:12), things are foggy and we just can’t see them. However, our ability to see has been tampered with because we have closed our eyes to the need. I admit that I change the channel whenever I see the Feed the Children or ASPCA commercials. Images of others hurting changes us and affects us in ways that we don’t always enjoy. Open your eyes to the needs of those around you.
- You have to anticipate the need.
If you are willing to see then you can live an anticipatory life of generosity. This is different than just hearing about a need and helping. This is a type of generosity that anticipates the need. You are always looking and ready to move when needed. It’s like a great baseball outfielder who anticipates where the ball is going to be based upon pitch count or even the sound of the bat. This type of generosity can also be described in the ‘radical’ part of hospitality that we United Methodists like to talk about so much. Hospitality or generosity is one level, anticipatory generosity or radical hospitality is another. Don’t wait for the need, anticipate it and move.
Generosity is the courage to meet the need. To be more generous
- You need courage to act.
There are those who are able to see and even anticipate, yet fail to be generous. Good intentions are not enough in this world. Courage is needed in a world that craves generosity. People actually want to be caring and kind, they are just afraid. We are afraid of exposing too much of ourselves, or enabling one’s behavior and creating dependency. We have come up with all sorts of phrases to keep us kind, yet not very generous. True generosity means extending yourself to a place of the unknown or even fearful. To do something that is so beyond your capacity and frame of reference puts you into the Realm of the King. This is Kingdom work, here folks. We get to see moments of God’s Kingdom here and now when this happens. All it takes is a few seconds of courage. Muster it up and be truly generous. Then, enjoy the ride.
- Spend time with people who are generous.
I used to think I was generous until I spent time with actual generous people. You know what happened – my stinginess didn’t change them, but, in fact, they rubbed off on me. Their warmth, love, and natural care inspired me to be a person who looks and tries to see now. I start to think with their mind rather than my first reaction. If there is something that I am afraid to do, I think about how they would react in this situation. Sure, it makes me uncomfortable at times, but I also get to experience moments of courage and generosity.
In the end – what is the real cost of generosity? John Maxwell said, ‘Be a river, not a reservoir.’
Have the courage to act.
Be generous today.