Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Increased Generosity

'Freely you have received, freely give.' It would be a different church if we took just that one verse seriously. What have I freely received? I've received forgiveness, so I should offer forgiveness just as freely. God through Christ offered that to even the worst of sinners, we should do likewise. I've received mercy and grace, their riches poured out abundantly on me. I should freely give out mercy and grace. 

I've also received adoption into a new family and a share of that families inheritance due to the generosity of the firstborn (Jesus). As I result I have new purpose and belonging and I have a new role model to follow. Jesus gave up unbelievable riches in order that others might have treasure in heaven. The passage about treasures in heaven applies to Jesus first and foremost. How rich will he be in heaven? 

Generosity then seems to me to describe much of the heart of our Triune God. The Father generously and without reservation gives the Son, who in turn generously gives the Spirit who generously and richly leads us into all truth. Generosity of spirit never remains only in the spirit but reaches the wallet too. The story of the Prodigal Son should really be the story of the Generous Father who gives the inheritance and then gives more on the return of his wayward offspring without seemingly any strings or conditions attached. 

If I live in a sharing community (however that looks) there are a number of direct potential benefits to me. Firstly, my costs of living go down as we share. We no longer need 'one each' but one between us. This releases money not to be driven back into satisfying my own desires (assuming that my needs have been met) but into an oppportunity to increase my generosity - so that others aren't hard pressed while I enjoy the fat of the land. 

Secondly, living amongst those that share could lead to the release of time or of energy - we do things together, working together reducing the workload. This release isn't so that I can spend more time on the playstation or in front of the telly but to make the most of the gifts God has given me. I'm pretty certain that at the end of my life I'm not going to look back and think 'I should have watched more TV'. The reason we do is often exhaustion from pressured work and the demands of life - share those burdens and exhaustion in theory goes down not up. If I'm providing more cash to the community but others are helping me in other ways then I'm not trying to do it all on my own and running the risk of burn out.  

It all sounds easier said than done, and of course there are challenges to this way of life because it is different and in some ways requires a little more effort to make it work but the gains and returns are I think greater. Am I being too idealistic? Probably. But I'm keen to add pragmatic wisdom into the mix as without it it won't work. More tellingly, will this ever go beyond talking? Which makes me wonder why this vision of life is not as attractive to others as it is to me...thoughts people?

For other recent blog posts on Generosity click here   


Jeremy said...

Idealism is a term that is often thrown at these kind of ideas, but Jesus tells us to 'be perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect', so Jesus is an idealist.
We want to ask 'how much is enough?', but Jesus doesn't permit us that question. At first glance that's pretty scary, and so we try to explain his statements away, but actually they are incredibly liberating.

The thing is, God doesn't set us a destination, he sets us a direction. So we never arrive, but every step along the way is valuable in its own right.

Perhaps people don't see the beauty of this lifestyle because they're afraid of failing. We crave the safety of targets and tithes, destinations and percentages. But that's not Jesus' way. We just need to start walking, and trust that even the tiniest gesture doesn't go unnoticed in the kingdom of God.

My thoughts, from one idealist to another. I'll have to come back to the practical stuff another time.

Simon Boswell on 7 November 2007 at 20:55 said...

Hi there - I've been enjoying reading your thoughts about community recently and I agree with a lot of what you've said.

From my side, I've been interested by recent scientific research that suggests that altruistic societies evolve more successfully than competitive societies, even if altruists tend to lose out on an individual basis to more competitive individuals.

I discuss it more here.

Hence it seems that the commandment to 'love thy neighbour' is more than just an idealistic command - it is an evolutionary imperative too. We are more than just individuals, we are members of evolving societies; but we need to break free from the paradigm that tells us that it is only as individuals that we matter.

Phil on 7 November 2007 at 21:25 said...

Thanks for your comment. The thought that came immediately to mind was how interesting it is that in evangelicalism we focus on the redemption of the individual and struggle with the concept of community. Interesting that individualism then may well be fighting against human nature rather than going with it.

Jeremy, great to have another idealist around. Thanks for your encouragement

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