I’m a minimalist at heart. Or at least I like to think of myself as such. I’m also generous. Then again I’ve learned my self-image isn’t always accurate. Take a purview my personal property and I’m not as a minimalistic as I confess. If a window could be opened to my heart when I give generous may not be the descriptor of what is seen.
Generosity came to mind when my wife and I were performing a toy purging. If you don’t know what a toy purging is then you are a hoarder, or you don’t have numerous small children.
‘Toy purging’ in the Johnson house is a process of weeding through toys, and even clothing, we no longer use or need; this process is a way to keep the clutter down, which is necessary with five kids ages 10 and under, and it is a way for our children to learn to be generous as well as learn what is necessary—or minimally what we think is necessary… Anyway, we were collecting toys, to give to the St. Vincent DePaul thrift store, when my oldest daughter brought me items to give away. As I rummaged through her bag I noticed none of her items actually belonged to her. After setting her strait, which meant she could only collect her stuff, I began to think about my own heart regarding possessions and generosity. Yes, my possessions are also on the auction block during a toy purging. What do I give? How do I give? Why do I give and what do I consider necessary? Am I giving begrudgingly? I hope not. Am I happily giving away other people’s stuff? My children always think so.
Generosity is easy, when what’s being given is not desirable or when it isn’t yours. Generosity is also pain free when we have more than we desire. Sharing Doritos with the kids is easy when I have a large bag, but I’m rather stingy with only a grab bag.
Giving generously is desired when it benefits the giver in some way. But is this the true heart of generosity? Or is all generosity/giving done with the benefit of the giver in mind? And is that good? Does generosity need to be selfless to be truly generous?
I’ve witnessed, and been party to generous displays of giving as mercenary acts of a benefactor seeking allegiance from a beneficiary. These acts can be done for the purpose of self-exaltation. They also can be performed as a matter of duty, or guilt, or convenience; by convenience I mean giving is consequence of a convenient action by the giver—needing more space in the garage or unloading something unwanted; much like people giving their unsold garage sale items to the St. Vinny Thrift store; or as in my family, we give to un-clutter our house.
Is true generosity a result of the desire to no longer be bothered by the stuff we’ve given? Is it simply a matter of duty? Or am I as pastor responsible to guilt people into giving? Should we give to exalt our self, or exact benefits from the recipient?
As I see it, true generosity is difficult. At some level all giving can be traced back to a mercenary heart. Generosity needs to come from a different heart that what I possess and even from the most beneficent heart that humanity can produce. While giving from a mercenary heart may still benefit the recipient it does not benefit the giver, and it seems, well… mercenary; which is always derogatory. Can generosity come from something other than a mercenary heart? More thoughts to come… Tell me what you think.