by Charlotte O
With the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge seemingly coming to a close, as a viral sensation, I wanted to take a few moments to look back and talk about it all.
Love it or hate it, admire its ability to spread the message or sick of the videos (literally) flooding your news feed, the ALS ice bucket challenge has brought a lot of issues to light. But one that seems to be less discussed is generosity and what it really means to be generous. Does donating to a charity make you generous? Are you less generous if you tell the whole world about it via video? Should we all be donating toward clean water instead?
A question I’ve been asking myself lately is will I ever really regret being generous?
A few weeks ago while I was walking down the street with my family, a couple in a car approached us with a complicated story about how and why they needed money. One person gave them what little cash they had and we sent them on their way, later wondering if they had been legit. If you decide that you aren’t going to regret being generous, then it doesn’t really matter whether or not they were telling the truth. Because generosity says a lot more about you than it does about the other person.
So maybe the real question we can ask is: Will you regret not being generous?
If you want to test your motive for giving, give a lot and give in secret. Give to those who can or will never repay you.
Whenever you start wondering if someone deserves to be the object of your generosity, you have already stopped being generous. If your giving is based on what they do for you it becomes cheap and shallow. If you only treat someone for a meal because they treated you last time than it's simply repayment in a very transactional relationship, which is not love. Love keeps no record of wrongs. It doesn't remember that that person didn't pay for gas or get you a Christmas present. A lack of generosity also reveals a lot more about you than it does the other person.
As one of the most generous people I know once told me: if you want to test your motive for giving, give a lot and give in secret. Give to those who can or will never repay you.
A lack of generosity shows a lack if security. We are less likely to give if we are afraid we will never get more. When we forget that everything we have is a gift and start feeling entitled to everything we have worked for, we tend to be characterized by greed rather than generosity.
One of history’s wealthiest men had a lot to say on the matter:
Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. People curse those who hoard their grain, but they bless the one who sells in time of need. If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you! Trust in your money and down you go! But the godly flourish like leaves in spring. (Proverbs 11:24-28, NLT)
The more firmly we hold the things we have in our grip, the less we can actually enjoy them. With possessions we need to learn to cherish things without holding on to them too tightly. Sometimes holding onto stuff turns into missed opportunities for generosity too. That iPod shuffle you haven't listened to in months or longer? I bet you know a kid who would be absolutely thrilled if someone gave them their first iPod as a gift. When we realize that we are blessed in order to become a blessing to others, we start to look for opportunities for generosity, and discover that is brings so much more joy than hoarding ever could.
If you’re wondering where to start, here are some suggestions I’ve heard and maybe even hope to try.
- next time you eat out with a group, pay the whole bill
- or leave an extra-large tip, even if the service wasn’t great
- at the grocery store, splurge on a few of your favorite luxury items (you know the GOOD toilet paper) and leave them in the food bank box
- give something anonymously
- find something in good condition in your home that you don’t use often and give it away
- pay for an entire tank of gas instead of just contributing a few dollars
- pay for the person behind you at a drive-through
Maybe we can start a “generosity challenge”. Though it might be best if we didn’t make videos about it.
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