My word for the year and God's communication with me lately are both rooted in the concept of generosity. I've been learning so much, but learning and growth are often facilitated by challenge and struggle.
Once in awhile, God has me write for others as a means of refining myself. This is one such instance. It is very difficult for me to publish this article challenging others to do better where I so often fail. However, this is what He's asked me to write, so let's dig deep and grow together, shall we? Here goes...
A generous person is one who may be described as "showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected." It's not uncommon for folks to put generosity in a box and look at it from a perspective of sharing with others some of what you consider to be your abundance of money, belongings or other resources. We're going to unwrap the concept of generosity like a gift (see what I did there?) and expand our definition of "resources" through what we find. But first, let's take a look at why we don't already live and love with an unlimited ability to be generous.
Why don't we give?
- If we're looking at generosity as sharing money, belongings, or other tangible things, many of us are limited by a lack of monetary resources. We can even convince ourselves that if we can't offer something tangible, that we have nothing to offer at all.
- For some, hidden emotions can evoke and attitude of withholding from others. You may or may not be aware of this tendency, but if you are it's likely that you aren't sure why you operate this way. A stingy attitude is usually motivated by jealousy, envy, greed or pride. There have been times when I've withheld as a matter of relational judo, sending a passive-aggressive message of my hurt and anger.
- Perhaps you feel you can't possibly measure up to the generosity others have shown you so you give nothing in return with a sense of defeat.
- I believe the most common barrier to generosity is very simple: we are so wrapped up in our own little world that a generous thought never crosses our minds.
Every single one of us has an ever-expanding capacity for generosity, no matter where we stand with regard to access to tangible resources. The harsh reality is that often what we can offer others requires far more than money. Living generously could require killing your pride, being inconvenienced, not getting your way, setting aside your preferences, letting yourself be seen or a myriad of other uncomfortable experiences. That all feels more expensive than the finest gifts.
The bottom line is that a generous life is a life lived with more concern for others than yourself. We are selfish beings and so this does not come naturally. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can cultivate a generous lifestyle of letting go of our own agendas and being generous with our very selves.
What is generosity of self?
At the core, it is simply letting your soul shine. Generosity of self is pouring out the YOU that you were created to be as a gift of love and grace to those around you. It's life spent with arms outstretched instead of folded in front of you.
Even if you don't feel like you want to be generous or change the way you think about what you have to give, I think you can fake it 'till you make it on this. Just start doing these things until they become habits and eventually the way you think about giving of your Self will be transformed. Sharing yourself won't feel so expensive as God increases all that you have to give. Obedience to the call to love others more than ourselves promises infinite ROI. Righteousness, intimacy and Glory to God are waiting on the other side of your generosity. You get to be more like Jesus and grow closer to Him. What would Christ have withheld of Himself from us? Nothing. Not even His very life. From His poverty we were made rich.
Can we give all we have in order to be a reflection of His love for His people here on earth? I believe we can. And in ways that are greater than we even know. It's time. Let's get serious about being broken bread and poured out wine.
ONE: Show up.
Go to other people’s stuff. Support the people you love even if you’re not really into what they're doing. Be their biggest fan. Everyone needs someone to believe in them. Why not be that person for the people you love? Pour yourself into other people's work, hobbies, passion, and dreams. It is so satisfying to know that your encouragement has spurred someone on.
Furthermore, be present when your people find themselves in times of need. Go to others when they simply need the comfort of your company. Remember that you carry with you the very presence of God. If you aren't sure what to say or do in the most difficult times, rely on the Spirit to work through you. You may only need to sit and be silent to let Him minister through you. Just show up.
TWO: Serve when it counts.
Do the thing that needs to be done even if you don’t want to do it. There is no act that is beneath you, no matter how high you climb by societal standards. Taking out trash, scrubbing toilets, changing bandages, filing papers, entering data... you get the point. If there is a need and no one to fulfill it, step up! This might mean sucking it up when someone is desperate for childcare, in need of a ride or a place to stay for awhile, or scrambling to put on an event. Look for ways to be of service to others and live from that posture. Let your constant thought process lead with, "How can I help?" Eventually, you will begin to notice other people's needs before they do. At that point you are winning in life. You've reached the top. You've achieved the highest status of being others-focused instead of self-focused.
(biggest gut punch of the article for me, right there^^^)
THREE: Be vulnerable.
When I began describing vulnerability as a key to unlocking generosity of self, I realized there was far more to share than what I could get into here. Sign up below and I'll send you five practical ways to practice generosity of self through vulnerability.
Here's the overview:
Being vulnerable may be the most generous practice of any listed here. It takes courage, humility and strength of Spirit to practice vulnerability with pure motives. Our culture of pride and can-do attitudes has caused many to view vulnerability as weakness. Admittedly, when practiced with the wrong motives, it can be evidence of weakness in one's character. However, those who live their lives and engage in relationships with a commitment to vulnerability are often perceived as being the strongest and most admirable. People identify with those they admire. This means that vulnerability can sow seeds of empathy and empathy drives human connection. So you see, our ability to connect with and offer some part of ourselves to others really depends on our willingness to be seen for what we really are. Thankfully, vulnerability gets easier with practice. Getting good at being vulnerable will make this next act of generosity far easier.
FOUR: Tell the truth.
There are times when the people closest to us are operating with unchecked blind spots. When you see what they can't see, don’t save yourself the trouble of saying the hard thing. As much as you may think that sparing them the pain of hearing the truth is "nice", it's not nice at all. If you have the kind of relationship with someone that permits feedback and feedback is warranted— GIVE IT.
Before you ever begin, pray for a heart to be helpful and that Jesus would do the talking. Be sure to examine your motives for any judgment, pride or hidden agenda. Measure your feedback against God's truth and let that be your guide. Take time to empathize and intercede. Try to sit on the other side of the conversation and experience the thing from their perspective. This will shape your messaging and your heart.
Remember to offer constructive ways to move forward. Don’t drop your observation like a judgement bomb and walk away. Stick around to walk it out with them. Be brave and check in with them later as well. Think of ways to come back to encourage, honor and uphold.
Something else to chew on here:
There's another facet to the concept of being honest as an act of generosity. Don't embellish. Don't add false details to stories for the sake of entertainment or put your own spin on reality to support your point. When we keep to the facts and refuse to embellish, we avoid causing others to feel they are lacking or as though they can't measure up.
FIVE: Share your insight.
If you've learned something that has changed the way you think or see God or understand life, please don't be stingy! A generous soul humbly shares God's gift of understanding and wisdom. You can do this in casual conversation, in your small group, on social media or another outlet you might have for sharing. Simply say what you've learned. God doesn't want you to put the insight He's given you in a box and bury it in the ground. Wrap it up and give it like a gift from the heart.
SIX: Let grace flow
I never feel richer than I do when I've been shown grace and I know I don't deserve it. When someone chooses to see my value instead of my sin, I am overcome with gratitude. Withholding grace is the least generous (and least Christ-like) act we can engage in. Nothing will separate us from intimacy with Jesus faster than refusing to choose grace, forgetting our place of privilege. We have free access to the King of all Kings because of the grace purchased with His own son's life. Sharing the grace Christ put in us through His Holy Spirit is the least we can do to show our gratitude for His sacrifice.
SEVEN: Pray and check in.
When someone presents a prayer need, or when you simply detect one, don’t just say you’ll pray, actually pray! Like right then and there! Make their problem your problem and place it before the throne in faith. Stand in the gap for the weak and afraid. Speak bold prayers over those in need and then follow up with to see how it’s going. If the situation isn't improved, keep praying. The beauty of intercession is that it not only impacts the one you pray for, but it brings you into the presence of God. Why would we not let this consume our days?
See? We have so much to give. It will cost us nothing from our bank account, but the price tag is so much higher that any monetary value could reflect. You have so much to give. So why not start now? Let Christ's gift of love flow through you as He intends and watch what happens.
Do you have other ideas about how we can be generous with ourselves? Please share them in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take some notes about opportunities you encounter and share them with this community so that we can grow together.
And don't forget to sign up above and receive five practical ways to be generous through vulnerability.