There is a question I tend to ask myself every once in a while. I find myself circling back around to ask this question when a convicting thought, comment, situation, or story confronts me with what I am doing or what I am thinking. However, I must be honest; the attempt to answer this question is often difficult because I really want to make this question a rhetorical question rather than having to face it.
The question I ask myself is, “Am I a generous person?”
I admit there is nothing utterly profound about this question. It’s not like I am contemplating the meaning of life, or is “it more important to love or be loved,” or the proverbial “chicken or the egg” question, but when I think about it, I do find myself wanting to be a genuinely generous person.
Sure, there are different ways to answer that question. Its easier to respond to the question for someone else then it is to answer it directly about ourselves, but this question is fundamental to our faith simply because we serve a God who is exceedingly generous to us. And, if He is generous with us why shouldn’t we be generous to others. Grace begets generosity.
In reading and studying this subject I’ve learned several common themes about generosity. Generosity is not for a select few. It is for everyone. It’s not just for the super holy people and it’s not just for super rich people. Generosity does not begin with an action but a decision within the heart.
The other thing I learned is that being generous is associated with enjoying better health, happiness, and purpose in life. Everyone has the opportunity to be generous but according to the data collected with the Science of Generosity Survey at the University of Notre Dame only 3 percent of American adults give away 10 percent or more of their income. So what this means is that America, at least 97 percent, are missing the opportunity to enhance and increase their personal well-being by practicing real generosity with their finances.
This survey also revealed that 85 percent give away less than 2 percent of their income. I was shocked about this figure. What this means is that about six out of seven do not give away 2 percent of their income. Slightly more than half of this group give away not one dollar. In their article “Giving money away makes us happy. Then why do so few of us do it?” written by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson explain how “by giving away some of our resources for the wellbeing of others, we can enhance our own.”
Yes, when we give it makes us feel good and makes us happier people but this actually brings us back to the main point I would like to once again share with you. Generosity is fundamental to our faith because we see a God who from the very beginning of creation has been generous to us. Our heavenly Father has lavished on us the riches of His grace (Eph. 1:7-8) and He is able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (3:20).
So let me ask you:
What does generosity look like for you?
What does generosity sound like for you?
How can you live out generosity to others and to your church?
Brad Hewitt, CEO of Thrivent Financial, and author of Your New Money Mindset: Create a Healthy Relationship with Money says, “Be generous. Give before you think you have enough to give.” So, my challenge to you is pray St. Ignatius prayer and then do one act of generosity this week. Then ask yourself what you are thinking and how do you feel.
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.
-St. Ignatius Loyola