Jesus teaches, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). One of my life goals is to be generous to a fault. My generosity, unfortunately, has long been tied to how my family is doing financially – both to the positive and the negative. The Scriptures make it clear; your generosity should not come from your surplus but your heart.
Difficult not to think of the Widow’s mite in Luke’s Gospel, when contemplating giving from your need, “When he looked up he saw some wealthy people putting their offerings into the treasury, and he noticed a poor widow putting in two small coins. He said, “I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” Honestly, I hesitate and outright struggle to hand over those last few pennies.
My giving, when done with the purest of intentions and through the counsel of the Holy Spirit, seems not only to bless the recipient by my family as well. Likewise, when my giving has been purely for show or recognition, while it hopefully blessed the receiver; it came without a returned blessing.
Once I was visiting a Franciscan chapel for daily Mass. To my surprise, they passed a collection basket. I’d come to the chapel to pray for my family’s current dire finances circumstances. As the basket drew closer, I caressed the dollar in my purse. The bill was special to me, as it came in response to a prayer — a promise that my family would make it through this hardship. Over the last year, as our bank accounts and credit dwindled, I clung to this security blanket and a true gift from the Lord.
Finally, decision time came, and I placed the lone bill in the basket, offering a whispered prayer, “Jesus, I trust in you.” That evening as I was taking off my clothes to change into my pajamas, a dollar fell out of my pants pocket. I laughed out loud and then quickly apologized to Jesus. How, Lord, could I ever doubt your unparalleled generosity or unfailing keeping of your promises.
Let me be clear, a return on investment (so to speak) should never be the motivation to be generous. The fact I have witnessed God repeated generosity towards my family and me is merely an observation.
If that wasn’t reason enough to guard my intentions, Jesus words in Matthew 6:1, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven,” sure are!
Being generous, as pointed out in a fantastic Catholic program on managing your money, Navigating Your Finances says, “is a journey that takes time.” The nuances worked out through the practice of virtue, prayer, and grace!
Giving from your heart, especially when your resources are depleted, can be very difficult. It is a journey to trust in God’s providence and in the blessings of being generous. There have been many opportunities where sharing our treasure has not come easy.
Embarrassingly I have to admit, those calls to be generous from our poverty became easier; when I was able to witness the fruits of my donations. Another situation, Jesus warns followers in Matthew’s Gospel, “But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret, will repay you.”
Real generosity comes without reward. It comes without promises or assurances of reward. True generosity comes from allowing Christ to live in and through you. It remembers from whom all good gifts come (James 1:17) and to Whom we owe everything. A paying forward of the invaluable gifts from God bestowed generously upon us – hope, faith, and most notably, love. Imitating Christ, showing to the world Christian generosity and that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.