On being generous (13/5/11)
By noon, we sometimes have had more than 4 people coming to our door asking for things. Some are selling goods (our favorite is the tortilla lady), some are asking for money for medicines or school fees or for food. We’ve come across a few people we suspect are just out to get a free lunch, but others are trying to build a relationship, and the money/food request is simply a part of the African relational dynamic: friendship implies a material reciprocity to give when someone else is in need.
I find it challenging at times to deal with these frequent requests for assistance or to purchase flowers, tortillas, English muffins (who knew?) or samosas.
Knowing that I have limits, I am not God, and can’t meet everyone’s need helps.
But I am finding my generosity, or lack of it, being brought front and centre.
The pastor at the church we are attending, Africa Inland Church—Kijabe Mission, shared this story on Sunday:
There was a missionary long ago in Kenya who came and taught the people. Among other things, he taught them the principle of tithing, and that you should try to give 10% to God.
One day, a boy came to him with a fish and offered it to him. Aware that he had been teaching this boy the principle of tithing, he was also aware that they boy needed to eat, and was concerned for his health.
“Where are the other fish, my boy?” he asked.
The boy replied, “They are in the river, and I am going to go and catch them now!”
I love this story. This boy understood the principle behind giving. It’s not about 10%, it’s not about how you give or when you give, it’s not about whether or not people see you giving, it’s not about how much you give compared to others.
It’s about being a generous person—being the kind of person, on the inside, who has a generous heart and wants to give to others and God.
In my experience, giving is not primarily about precedents in the Bible, or even God’s promises that we reap what we sow…it is fundamentally a reflection of my view of God and how he operates.
Is he a generous God? Is he good, awesome, and loving? Is the relationship between God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit one of unselfish love and generosity?
My giving, then, is a reflection of the nature of God’s relationship with me and with his creation—unselfish generosity.
A useful litmus test for the ‘health’ of my picture of God and of my life with Him is my giving and how I feel about it. Am I holding tightly onto my money and possessions? Am I thinking constantly about how I am going to provide for the family, what my bank balance is? Or am I at peace, and delighted to look for opportunities to give to and serve others?
What would a litmus test of your life show? Is your picture of God, or of the universe that of a generous, safe place?