Don’t worry and ask yourselves, “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have any clothes to wear?” Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well. – Jesus, Matthew 6:31-33
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. – St. Paul, 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Here’s conventional wisdom:
Success makes you happy. Happiness permits you to be generous.
In fact, it actually works like this:
Generosity make you happy. Happy people are more likely to be successful.
– Seth Godin
Do you live in a world of abundance or a world of scarcity? That’s not an economics question as much as it is a faith question. In subtle and not-so-subtle ways our culture teaches us that we don’t have enough and must always strive to grasp more. But our faith says that we worship a God of abundance who provides generously, more than we need so that we might share and know joy. Not more than we want, but more than we need.
Would you like to be more generous? Would you like to experience more joy? Would you like to give more and worry less? Me too! While only God can bend our hearts toward generosity, there are habits that can move us in the right direction. To experience the spiritual fruit of generosity try these three practices suggested by Dr. David Lose:
Count your blessings. Seriously. Start counting. Begin a list of ways in which you have been blessed – with relationships or abilities or possessions or experiences or whatever else comes to mind. You don’t have to finish it today. In fact, you won’t be able to, because once you start naming your blessings more will come to mind. But start your list today and name at least ten. (Don’t worry, it will be easy.) Each day for the next month, add a few more. You’ll be surprised by the sense of abundance this creates, and you may want to continue counting well beyond the end of the month.
Express your gratitude. Once you’re aware of your blessings, start thanking people for them. This can be a prayer to God, an email to a colleague, a handwritten note to a neighbor, or simply a word of thanks to a friend or family member, but make sure that at least once a day you find a way to express tangibly and concretely your gratitude to someone for a blessing in your life. There is perhaps no better way to make yourself – and others – feel better than to say “thank you.”
Practice Generosity. To move from feeling more blessed to living more abundantly, you need to put your newfound sense of abundance into action by giving more of your time, talent, and money to others. This might be spending more time with a family member or friend who needs you, volunteering at a local agency, or giving more to your church or favorite charity. Generosity is a muscle: as we use it, it gets stronger, and as it gets stronger, we develop greater and greater ability and confidence to live more abundantly.
When God opens our eyes to see that we live in a world of abundance God can open our hands to share more generously with others. That’s a pathway that leads to greater joy.
Want a little more inspiration? Check out this short video.
What fuels your generosity? How has generosity led to greater joy in your life?
Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN