Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cheerful giving

At a recent Bible study, we discussed God's call to generosity as described in 2 Corinthians 9. I find that chapter to be encouraging. It is an endorsement of my existing feelings about the resources I have, namely, that they all belong to God and should be shared accordingly. I struggle in many parts of my spiritual life, but sharing what I have is one thing that comes easily to me. I am uncertain, however, about how to live out that gift in such a way that it encourages others. Is it possible to model a generosity that inspires others without appearing to be prideful?
In contrast, consider the virtue of patience (an area where I often fall short). One who had cultivated patience can easily live out that gift in such a way that others notice it and are reminded that they, too, are called to be patient. The man who listens attentively to stories from his father at the nursing home (despite many repetitions) and the teacher who will explain a concept in different ways until her pupil understands both model patience in a public but unassuming way. Can that occur with generous giving? It seems that if others know you are giving, the generosity appears tainted by pride.
The situation becomes even more difficult if you see a need to exhort a fellow Christian. For example, a member of my church once commented to me that she believed you should take care of yourself first and only then, if there are resources left over, give to God. I was nonplussed and said my family had always practiced 'tithing off the top', since our gifts came from God. She seemed annoyed and changed the subject. Of course, I could have said something noncommittal instead, but then how do we help each other grow in holiness? She certainly will never see our budget, so the fact that we give is not a witness in itself. I have yet to find a good answer to this issue.

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