Home > Books on Spiritual Formation, Spirituality > How to develop a generous spirit

How to develop a generous spirit


After hearing a sermon about money this money, I decided to do a re-post from 2007.

I once made the mistake of calling friends frugal when they intentionally  reducing the amount of food they served our group in order to save money.  I think our friends did not understand the cultural value of celebration around a meal and how generosity would have communicated so much love.

Our friends were insulted and thought I was calling them stingy. Thanks to my wife, we managed to work it out. And, perhaps, providing them with a gift of a simple ride to the airport helped as well.

Mark Buchanan’s eloquent words in The Rest of God express my heart,  “Generous people generate things.” He continues on pages 83-84:

And, consequently, their worlds are more varied, surprising, colorful, fruitful.They’re richer. More abounds with them, and yet they have a greater thirst and deeper capacity to take it all in. The world delights the generous but seldom overwhelms them.

Not so the stingy. Stinginess is parasitic, it chews life up and spits out bones. The stingy end up losing what they try so desperately to hold. . . Hoarding is only wasting. Keeping turns into losing. And so the world of the stingy shrinks. . . . Because they are convinced there isn’t enough, there never is.

This all relates to Sabbath-keeping. Generous people have more time. That’s the irony: those who sanctify time and who give time away–who treat time as gift and not possession–have time in abundance. Contrariwise, those who guard every minute, resent every interruption, ration every moment, never have enough. They’re always late, always behind, always scrambling, always driven. . . .

I don’t think my friends were stingy when I called them frugal. It was clearly a cultural misunderstanding. But, I guess in the matter we were discussing, I don’t think they were being generous either. My daughter, a server at a local restaurant, once picked up the bill for three friends who came in to eat a few weeks ago. She paid the full amount and received no discount or complimentary meal for them. She felt like being generous. Why? Well, according to my friend, she said that she had learned it from her dad. Wow, what a compliment!   By the way, she did get the biggest tip of her young career from the friends!

Buchanan says, “The taproot of generosity is spiritual”, and cites the example of the Macedonians in 2 Corinthians 8:5. He makes the following suggestion:

Give yourself first to God. Stop, now, and give yourself–your breath, your health or sickness, your thoughts, your intents, all of who you are–to him. And your time, that too. Acknowledge that every moment you receive is God’s sheer gift. Resolve never to turn it into possession. What you receive as gift you must be willing to impart as gift. Invite God to direct your paths, to lead you in the way everlasting; be open to holy interruption, divine appointment, Spirit ambush (and ask God to know the difference). Many are the plans in a man’s heart,” Proverbs says, “but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21). Surrender to his purpose with gladness. Vow not to resist or resent it.

Give yourself first to God.

Now the hard thing: give yourself to others. Enter this day with a deep resolve to actually spend time, even at times seemingly to squander it, for the sake of purposes beyond your own–indeed that occasionally subvert your own (remember the good Samaritan?). That person you think is a such a bore but who always wants to talk with you: Why not really listen to him? Why not give him, not just your time, but yourself–your attention, your affection, the gift of your curiosity and inquisitiveness?

In God’s economy, to redeem time, you might just have to waste some.

Try this for a week, giving of yourself first to God and then to others. Be generous with time.

See if your world isn’t larger by this time next week.

May I practice generosity this week! I need to begin by letting go of . . . and giving . . .

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  1. April 8, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    I loved this… thanks for writing. In our time-starved culture we are very stingey with giving away time to others, to God.

    This was something great that I was able to do a month ago and your post reminded me of this.

    http://markpetersen.wordpress.com/2007/03/10/a-weekend-of-silence-and-listening/

    I have added you to my blogroll and will check back here for lots of good reflective writing.

  2. April 15, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    This continues for me to be a challenge I face every day!

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