Generosity is difficult.
We seem to be hard-wired for hoarding, harbouring, and protecting our limited resources.We want to make sure we have enough. But, somehow mysteriously, “enough” seems to be always just around the corner.
Flowing freely from abundance and giving generously from our awareness of abundance seem to be a destination we never quite reach.
The word “generous” came into the English language in the sixteenth century from the Middle French word, généreux, which means “of noble birth.” It is interesting that “generous” is connected to origins. The ability to be generous derives from an awareness of Source.
It is hard to be generous when we labour under the illuson that we are responsible for creating our own lives. If we have to make life meaningful, secure and safe, generous will not be our first response.
In 2 Corinthians Paul speaks of the
surpassing grace of God that he has given you.
He goes on to declare
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:14, 15)
“Surpassing grace” is the fundamental nature of life.
Paul understood, as does the whole witness of Scripture, that life is fundamentally gift. We did not create ourselves; we do not sustain our lives. Every breath we breathe is gift. Every time our heart beats, we are receiving the gift of life.
Paul reminds the Romans that
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:5)
There is no shortage. There is always enough to go around. The nature of life is abundance. I am rich when I experience inner abundance and live from this consciousness of abundance.
You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity. (2 Corinthians 9:11)
The sign of richness is not that I have the most, but that I give the most. The more I give, the more I fulfill my true nature and enter into the fullness of the human condition in which I was designed to life.
James urges his readers,
If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
The Greek word translated “ungrudgingly” is haplōs. It means “openly.” Giving is only generous when it comes with no strings attached. Grudging or conditional generosity is of course no generosity at all. True generosity does not need to be thanked, recognized, acknowledged or affirmed. I give because I have been moved by the abundance of life. When I give, I live from my true and deepest nature.
Etty Hillesum understood profoundly the connection between the experience of abundance and the possibility of generosity. In the most impoverished circumstances imaginable, just three weeks before being deported to Auschwitz, Etty recorded in her diary a prayer in which she said to God:
‘You have made me so rich, O God, please let me share out Your beauty with open hands. My life has become an uninterrupted dialogue with You, O God, one great dialogue. Sometimes when I stand in some corner of the camp, my feet planted on Your earth, my eyes raised towards Your heaven, tears sometimes run down my face, tears of deep emotion and gratitude. At night, too, when I lie in my bed and rest in You, O God, tears of gratitude run down my face, and that is my prayer. (From Westerbork Wed. 18 Aug. 1943 to Henny Tideman, 640)
Generosity flows from an awareness of abundance. And, when I give freely from abundance, I receive vastly more than I give. This is the natural flow of generosity.