Unraveling Generosity

I used to be convinced God created generosity.

However, if generosity was created, that implies generosity once did not exist; which I do not think is possible. The more I know God’s love towards me and search His scriptures, the more I cannot help but see how generous He is.  Thus, if my God who is not created and is not changing, is generous, this begs me to expand my view of what I think generosity is. It is not a mere “thing” we should do. It is an attribute of who my loving God is. And in an effort to become more like Him, it is in my best interest to pay attention to what He thinks of the matter as well as who He describes Himself to be; since He is generous.
 
Yet, if you are unsure if God is generous, I invite you to still keep reading. I too did not live convinced God was generous. Or, at my best, I lived believing God was generous to others but not to me; just like many Christians who do not know their inexplicable value.
 
But may I suggest that without God, generosity is difficult to define; impossible even. It is based solely on the premise that there is something we all have and with that something, we have the ability to give, and give abundantly. I mean, who agreed on this? If we take God, the source of all created things out of the equation, how does one have “things” to give?? How does one even know what abundance is? Who defines this? Is it the social theorists who tell us what we need in order to live? Is it the people who have calculated the money amount we should aim for? And yet, what is the source? Where did generosity come from? Is it simply an evolutionary principle that has benefited generations?
 
I digress. But dear reader, this is a question that troubles me. To me, the act of giving is wrapped indefinitely in the character of God. One cannot explain generosity without noticing there had to have been an origin. And Genesis tells me that the Origin has a name and it is Yahweh.

For this blog post, I was asked to write about how I am living generously in this season of my life. I may seem far from my original prompt but I found I could not even begin to write on generosity without noticing that we must agree there is a source. And most of you reading this probably already agree the source is God. Regardless, I do think it is worthy to revisit.
 
Reader, let us agree on another thing: God is love. And, if that is the case, then we cannot accurately interpret generosity outside of God’s love for us and this world.
 
And yet, through all of my writing and praying, I am still not sure what generosity is; which tends to be the case for things that are wrapped so intricately in God. To me generosity is like gravity or air. I know what it is by understanding the things it affects. Rest assured, generosity has the opportunity to color every part of our lives.
 
Either an abundance mindset will guide us or a scarcity mindset will.  There is no neutral ground.

Yet, though there is no neutral, we tend to live somewhere in the middle of those mindsets, right? We live in a realm of knowing we should be generous, knowing we ought to be generous, but somehow not being able to be generous. We heard plenty of sermons or lectures on generosity being a good thing. We’ve searched scriptures and seen God’s abundance. We’ve read Jesus’ command to not worry and to give your neighbor the clothes on your back. But somehow, there is a disconnect between the life Jesus models and the life we are living.
 
The internet dictionary defines generosity in a way I think is deeply profound and helps explain our troubles.
 
Generosity is defined as “the quality or fact of being plentiful or large.” Let that sink in. That definition sounds like God to me.

Thus, I think the root cause of all our “generosity problems” are shame and fear.
 
Shame tells us to hide. Shame makes us smaller.

And when we are afraid, we are not being plentiful or large.
 
Shame and fear prevent me from living a generous life.

And the only way to break that and live generously is to get connected to love: God’s unconditional, extremely generous love.
  
To me, this makes sense. If we agree generosity is not created but rather is an attribute of God’s character, and God is love, then most assuredly the way to grow in generosity is to grow in knowing God’s love for ourselves and others.

Before I deeply knew God’s love for me, I gave in ways that were manipulative, fueled my codependency and fear. I would believe things like “if I give, maybe they will think of me as kind” or “maybe through my giving I can earn something.” If not manipulation, I would give out of a scarcity mindset, thinking God wanted me to be so run over and dry, abandoned for His sake. I would “lay down my life” and become a doormat because I thought that is what kindness is.
 
Neither are God’s heart for me and neither are healthy. In fact, the latter twists the word of God into a shame-induced gospel that says I am not good or worthy of His love unless I do something first. I happen to believe that we are still good and regardless if you believe we are “worthy” or not of His love, He still loves us as we are.

And so, for me, living generously in this season of my life has looked like actively waging war on shame and fear; the true enemies of living God’s life for me by giving abundantly.
 
And because I am healing from codependency mindsets that leads me to “give, give, and give so that others will be okay,” I have begun to ask myself questions before agreeing to help others or give my time.

When I give because it “won’t get done without me” I am not thinking the best about those around me.
 
Generosity requires me to be filled with God’s love since it is God’s love that makes me a large, plentiful person. So, I ask myself “can I give in this situation and still be a large, plentiful person?” I also ask, “Can I give and still keep my love on towards others, God, and myself?” “Can I give and be cheerful?” “Do I want to give?”

If the answer is no, I do not shame myself. I ask God to come in and fill my heart with His love.
Embarking on this journey has changed my life and given me fresh perspectives on what generosity is all about. Knowing who God has made me to be and the Love He has for me, has shifted the ways I interact with others.
 
Practically, for me generosity looks like doing my roommates’ dishes or taking someone on a walk so I can generously listen to them. It often looks like carving out time to generously pray for people. Or it looks like giving monetary gifts to those God puts on my heart.
 
As we are in this series on Legacy, I find it so amazing that the people who have most impacted my life are people who have lived a life of giving generously and with a happy heart. These are the people I remember. These are the people who have shaped my story for the Kingdom of God.
 
So, get connected to God’s love for you. Seek the ways He has been generous to the world, your family, and to you specifically. Thank Him for those things. And know He is the Father of all good gifts. He will help you live generously if you ask Him. 

Author | Samantha Richey

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