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God's Extravagant Generosity is a Crucial ConversationRev. Dr. Joey Shelton, Senior Pastor
God cares about you. God wants goodness for your life. God has a unique call upon you so that you might flourish. God’s caring, goodness, and call is God’s free gift. Have you recognized God’s caring grace? Have you been convicted by God’s goodness? Are you living into your grace-calling? This conversation is crucial and there is more: We are wired for response.
Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson are sociologists who have written an intriguing book entitled: The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose. The title to the book states their case:
GENEROSITY IS PARADOXICAL. Those who give, receive back in turn. By spending ourselves for others’ well-being, we enhance our own standing. In letting go of some of what we own, we better secure our own lives. By giving ourselves away, we ourselves move toward flourishing. This is not only a philosophical or religious teaching; it is a sociological fact.
The generosity paradox can also be stated in the negative. By grasping onto what we currently have, we lose out on better goods that we might have gained. And holding on to what we possess, we diminish its long-term value to us. By always protecting ourselves against future uncertainties and misfortunes, we are affected in ways that make us more anxious about uncertainties and vulnerable to future misfortunes. In short, by failing to care for others, we do not properly take care of ourselves. It is no coincidence that the word “miser” is etymologically related to the word “miserable.”
Stewardship is a crucial conversation. We live in a despairing culture in a land of plenty. Our generosity or lack thereof is a faith issue, a spiritual issue, a mental health issue and a physical health issue. It is a communal issue.
John Wesley had a keen sense of the paradox of generosity. He was a proponent of holistic discipleship. As Jesus taught and displayed, Wesley was convicted that the sharing of grace was for the whole person: mind, body, and spirit. The sharing of grace was for the whole community. Wesley taught that one should engage in honest work, make as much as healthily possible to take care of their family; and that in caring for one’s family, to live economically. The life-style of sensible economy is what Wesley meant by “save all you can.” This type living was an empowering life because it better equipped one to give financially to the faith community for the care of others. Thus Wesley’s mantra of “give all you can.” Giving resulted in a profound joy within the hearts of early Methodist people. Joy was a powerful witness for revival and evangelism. In short, they flourished. They lived the paradox of generosity.
I wonder if we are willing to trade despair and fear for the paradox of generosity? Perhaps it might lead to a healthy mix of science and religion!