We know we should be generous. We may even have an abstract desire to be generous. But how do we know where and how to give our resources? How do we even begin to see the opportunities around us and evaluate their rightness, goodness, and appropriateness?
Augustine tells us that “living a just and holy life requires one to be capable of an objective and impartial evaluation of things: to love things, that is to say, in the right order.” Our generosity shows and tempers our loves. If we love the things of God, we spend our time, money, resources, talents, and even emotions on the things of God. But if we love the things of this world, all the pieces of us go toward the things of this world. Here lies the paradox: Jesus, in his great Sermon on the Mount, doesn’t tell us that where our heart is, there our treasure will be, but rather that where our treasure are, there our hearts will follow (Matthew 6:21). In other words, we don’t give away our treasure from naturally generous hearts. Or, as one parenting book put it, people who didn’t hear about generosity as children don’t typically become generous adults. They simply didn’t develop the neuropathways for it. Aristotle says, “One acquires virtues by doing virtuous acts.” We have to train our hearts—and neurons—to be generous. And to do this, we must practice generosity.