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Putting Generosity Into Practice

...but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Matthew 6:20

Session Six: You've Got This, Now Give It Away

loving in the right order

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.

practicing generosity

Like any virtue, generosity is more than an act we do. It’s about who we are. While being generous may feel easier for some people, God created us all to be generous. Some of us just need more practice. Like a runner building up endurance, the more we practice, the more our daily choices shape our hearts and natures. When we see a homeless man on the street, rolling down our window to hand him a couple of dollars forms us to see needs and be compassionate people. Covering someone’s lunch without expectation for return elevates friendship over money. Giving to an overseas ministry invests us in that ministry, reminding us to pray for the people and the work. These actions open our eyes to God’s people and work in more situations.

Jesus followed his words about our hearts with words about our eyes. Training our hearts—our will and that which governs both our desires and our reason—results in improved vision. The Israelites believed that the light that governed eyesight came from within our bodies. Healthy bodies, meaning hearts aligned with the things of God, shine light through our eyes to help us see better. As we develop our generosity, we will see more opportunities for generously participating in God’s ministry through individuals and organizations.

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Daily Question

Consider your day yesterday. How could you have been generous in small, mundane ways: allowing a car to merge ahead of you, playing a game with your child, treating a coworker to coffee, baking muffins for an elderly neighbor? What are everyday ways you can open your life to generosity?

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