When people think of generosity, they usually think of gift giving, especially during the winter holidays.  The focus is on what you give and what you get.  On an everyday basis, most people in public are bombarded with homeless beggars offering to work for food, and on television we see pictures of hungry children in third world countries.  Most of these appeals are touching at first, but wind up being no more than an annoyance after the third or fourth time you see them.  The desire to help others degenerates into giving to appease a guilty conscience because we have and they don’t.  Eventually, we become numb to the whole thing.
Generosity is more than simply writing a check, or digging into your pocket to give to the needy.  Generosity is an attitude, and should translate into all our interactions with others.  When you give someone the benefit of the doubt, that is generosity.  When you are kind to someone who really doesn’t deserve it, that too is generosity.  The way we treat other people is the most accurate reflection of generosity.
For me, generosity comes from my gratitude toward God for all He has done for me.  Every blessing in my life is a reminder of the abundance of God’s goodness.  Because I have been so blessed, I can afford to be generous with people.  I can give to the needy, I can spare the time to listen to a person’s problems and give them comfort, I can take someone who has fallen, and help them get on their own two feet.  We can afford to be generous because God has been so good to us.

When I meet people who are stingy with their money, or with their time or energy toward others, it makes me wonder how grateful they are toward God.  When we really appreciate what God has done for us, it enables us to be generous.
I know people who make excuses to not give.  They say the beggars use the money to buy drugs and alcohol.  They say all the donated money for the TV begging goes to pay for air time.  I think we have to use wisdom when we give, but we also need to be willing to take a chance that we might be doing some good, by giving.
There was an old rabbi who was known for giving to the poor.. One day his students followed him around all day to see who he was giving money to.  The rabbi gave help to 50 people.  Of the 50, 49 were frauds.  When they confronted the rabbi with this fact, they asked if he felt foolish helping the 49 people who didn’t need it.  The rabbi said he was thankful to God that he didn’t let 49 people stop him from giving to the one person who really needed it.
The parables of Yeshua are all about the generosity of God, but also about how we need to be generous toward others.  Because Man was created in the image of God, the way we treat others is a true reflection of how we feel toward God.  True godliness can not exist apart from human decency.

8 thoughts on “Generosity

  1. Yes, thanks for putting a proper perspective on this issue once again.

    The TV appeals try my patience as well, and when I see them I think about how many people they could feed with the money spent for the commercial. I remember once you and I were driving nearby, and we saw a Lamborghini. Your first words were a comment about how many starving Jews you could feed with the price of that car. Not how much money the owner had spent to show off, or what a waste it was, etc., but you valued the fancy car in terms of the number of Jews who could have been fed with its price. That comment came from a generous heart.

    I simply ignore all the ads and commercials, and give where I know who is running the program, and exactly what happens to the money. BUT, I make sure that every month more than 10% of my income goes somewhere or other for God’s work, and preferably to help Jews in some way. That’s not to brag, but our synagogue dues are much less than a tithe, and it’s very tempting to get all smug and say I can keep the rest of the money. Well, yes, I can, but I think I’m the wiser not to do it.

  2. Hello Mike (Dr. Schiffman) – was trying to find Jean and Elmer on the web, came across one of your blog entries – how lovely to see what you’ve done with your life! We knew each other at ASU – we both were part of that little group that found the ministry offered by Jean and Elmer to be so healing – would be great to catch up with you!

  3. Pingback: being happy already (generous or stingy?) « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality

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