By Asst Ps Gift Daniel
Last week Sister Jiak Choo’s preaching from Malachi 3 reminded us of an important aspect of discipleship — "Giving." Reflecting on my habits of giving, I began to ponder on generosity. Very often, the word generosity implicitly makes us think about money. However, generosity is not limited to money; it includes time, words of encouragement, space, help, etc. The simplistic reduction of generosity to the calculation of tithes and percentages of money to give limits our understanding of generosity and fails to inform our attitude and acts of generosity.
The Macedonian Church commended for its generosity in the Bible often intrigues and encourages me. Though subject to severe poverty, the grace experienced through the Gospel of Christ propelled them into actions of incredible generosity amidst their poverty. Paul reporting the Macedonian church's example encourages the Corinthian church and continues to encourage the present church.
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace God gave the churches in Macedonia. They have been tested by great troubles, and they are very poor. But they gave much because of their great joy. I can tell you that they gave as much as they were able and even more than they could afford. No one told them to do it. But they begged and pleaded with us to let them share in this service for God's people. And they gave in a way we did not expect: They first gave themselves to the Lord and to us. (II Cor. 8: 1-5 NCV).
Some principles could be gleaned from Macedonian's model that can guide our attitudes towards generosity. The Macedonian Church's generosity came despite their poverty, not because of financial stability. Their generosity was driven by the joy that did not come from material abundance but a profound realisation of God's unmerited favour. They considered generosity a privilege to be part of and therefore were insistent and intentional. They understood generosity as an outward expression of an inward experience of grace. Their giving was not conventional or even rational given their circumstances, yet they became the unexpected source of blessing. The Macedonian church was not ordered or pleaded with to give, yet they were intrinsically moved to give as much as they could. Underlying their acts of generosity was the surrender of their selves and everything they had received from God and thereby to the service of God.
I have come to appreciate the generosity in terms of finances within the context of our church, and gratitude is due to the sacrificial givers in our church. Nevertheless, what does generosity entail within the context of our church besides financial generosity?
The life of Christ reflects generosity in his time and words to people generally looked down on or were considered an outcast. In the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman, Jesus, instead of participating in the cultural prejudice against Samaritans, extends generosity in his words, time, and compassion. Another instance of Jesus' kindness can be observed in the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, a person guilty of greed and deception. Jesus extends Zacchaeus a possibility and a chance for change. He does so by befriending Zacchaeus and dining with him.
Owing to the pace at which the world moves in the present, generosity in money may be relatively effortless for some of us, compared with the cost and effort of other expressions of generosity, particularly in words and time.
Practising generosity in words
We seldom realise the impact of misspoken words or withheld words. The pandemic worldwide forced people into frustrated venting or painful isolations, negatively affecting the quality of life. During this period, almost every day, I receive messages of long venting and complaining from people as to of how our government handles the current pandemic. Such messages do not help anyone. As Christians, let us refrain from venting about the unhappiness. Instead let us be generous in our words and appreciate what we have. Our health care workers and other essential service personnel deserve our appreciation. A sincere thanks to all health care workers in our midst. Thank you for your labour of love!
In the Asian context, words of appreciation are frequently withheld. Our gratitude to people serving us and the community often goes unconveyed because of the stinginess in our words, compliments or simple conversations. Someone once said, our words can dignify or dehumanise a person. We dignify people by our intentional choice of words. Let us learn to be generous with our words! Give more compliments, encourage others, leave kind comments online, tell someone they are doing a good job, etc. Kind words may cost us nothing but may mean everything to someone!
Practising generosity in time
We live in a time and age where time has been economised; time has become a valuable asset and a "gift". Our schedules and calendars dictate the course of our everyday lives. In a world whereby a fast-paced lifestyle is the norm, sparing quality time with people we love is a sacrifice that demands some intentional effort. The gadgets we use and the dramas we watch are competing to draw our attention. It takes discipline and intentional efforts to practise generosity in time, particularly to spend time with people from whom we don’t get anything in return. Let us take small steps to carve out some time and space for the needy and neglected. It could be as simple as stopping by an elderly person's house and checking in with them, buying or ordering food for the elderly or taking our neighbours for their vaccination or giving a call to a person who is in isolation order or quarantine order, being invested in a conversation without being distracted by gadgets and so on. Making a little space and time for others will mean a lot to the lonely, needy and the neglected.
And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded. Matt 10:42 (NLT)