My mom lives in the middle of the city. The air quality isn’t so good (it’s not horrible, but it can’t be a good as the 200km north of her), the traffic is busy, the TTC is walking distance, and one of Toronto’s largest malls is a few blocks away. There are many positive things I can think about when it comes to living in the city. Having a backyard that grows just about anything isn’t one of them. My mom’s backyard lawn grows faster that than a 90 year old man’s nose hair. I feel like it needs to be cut twice a week to just keep up (her grass, not the the nose hair). My son recently asked why her grass is so thick and grows so fast, ‘does she do anything to it Dad?’, he said. Actually, she does nothing to it. The only explanation is this: my grandfather lived in the same house for many years, and for all of those years he tended a garden that was 3/4’s the size of the yard. Can you guess which part of the yard grows well? You got it. The part where he invested so many years of generous love and attention.
When asked what makes us happy, most people respond, not by saying what they give, but by what they get. Things that make us happy are often associated with gifts, free money, pleasant surprises – not with what we give. Well, unpopular as it seems, giving is one of the best ways find happiness. Yes, giving makes you more happy than getting. And more than that, giving actually has a funny way of reproducing itself, in your life, in the life of the recipient, and in ways even unknown to us.
The Scripture’s grand narrative is one that describes a God who is generous. A God who loves unconditionally, lavishly, and with out any caps or limits. God shows generosity like no other. He leads by example in this category and invites us to lead others the same way. Some said that ‘generosity is an offering, given freely and out of pure love. No strings attached, no expectations.’ It’s a trait that is desirable by most people, but one that comes with a cost. The cost is simple, giving something away. Your time, your money, your gifts, your clothes, your energy, and on and on it goes.
In 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Paul provides a young church a sketch of what it means to be God’s people. People who follow Jesus are those who give generously, those who invest in others, who sow seeds and expect them to grow. Paul would say that those who sow will also reap. For him it’s common sense. Whatever you plant will eventually grow. The difference would be that those who plant seeds of generosity can expect more growth in return. This doesn’t mean that you will be rich or that if you give away $100, you’ll get $111 back. What the scriptures invite us to is a generosity that yields fruit in unimaginable places. Paul says, in connection to Jesus’ generosity towards us, that this gift is indescribable. (I think he’s talking about Jesus’ gift for us as well as our generosity towards others)
The Kingdom of God is an upside down kind of kingdom where the King dies for his people, not the other way around. This is why NT Wright says, “The kingdom that Jesus preached and lived was all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd generosity.” If you think about the best thing that you can do for the worst person, and go ahead and do it, that would be a reflection of Kingdom generosity.
So you’re probably thinking that this is just a little too ideal – too much pie in the sky for any of us. How can we ever reach this kind of living? You’re absolutely right. It is a lofty expectation, but one that’s founded on the same impossibility. How could God be so generous to us? How could Jesus live the way he lived? Crazy right. But here’s how it can work: because of his love towards us, because of his gifts to us, because of his sacrifice for us, and finally, because of his resurrection for and in us, we can be this generous. It’s a process, it’s a journey, it’s a path, and if we stay on it, we’ll experience the returns that Jesus and the scriptures talk about.
My grandfather’s generous planting, cultivating, and care for the earth in his backyard wasn’t in vain. He saw some immediate returns: salad, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, etc. We, years later are still seeing other benefits. When I think of him, I can’t help but think of someone who generously gave for his family and friends. I think the same about my Dad. He was the first person to drop his card or cash to pay for others. He didn’t have the most in the bank, but often he had the most in his heart. I want to be known for the same kinds of things: giving & generosity. You see, people will never know us for what we keep, but they will remember us for what we give away.
Oh, and we’ll be happy too!!!