Discipline Four of Six: Generosity
My spiritual memoir Spiritual Audacity is built around six spiritual disciplines of which the fourth is generosity. Is this an important discipline in your spiritual life?
Generous means “freely giving more than is necessary or expected.” So generosity includes the idea of open-handedness, along with a connection to our internal experience and spirituality. . . . Generosity ennobles us; it makes us great souls.” From The Generosity Path by Mark V. Ewert
How has generosity helped shape your life and well-being?
Generosity takes different forms, depending on our financial circumstances. Jesus expressed this in his story of the widow’s mite. She had very little and therefore could give very little. Yet what she gave was everything, so far beyond the large gifts of the rich man. This is the gift of spiritually transcending scarcity.
Each of us chooses how we will live, and that choice alters our spiritual opportunities. So choose abundance. All religions teach some form of this wisdom. Generosity enhances the joy we receive from living. This has always been true. No matter how rich or poor we are at any point, a generous spirit creates opportunities that scarcity won’t.
Generosity: A generous spirit transforms the soul. Central to practicing generosity is the practice of tithing, to give back to those with a greater need than ours 10 percent of everything we receive. Loretta and I have been practicing generosity, often including tithing, in one form or another over our thirty-six years of married life. Giving generously makes what you keep sweeter.
Once you set your mind upon it, it is so easy to do. It changes your orientation to material things. Loretta and I have been richly blessed, partly because of our attitude toward money and material things but also because of our practice of tithing.
We accept what we do receive with gratitude, recover more quickly from any wounds and sorrows, look with joy to the common good, and practice generosity. We have a happier marriage, are more connected to community, and help bend the arc of the universe toward justice, all by giving away a mere 10 percent! This is a powerful spiritual discipline.
Why not be generous? The average American will have lifetime earnings greater than $1.4 million, so by tithing they can give away $140,000 to make the world better. The average family in this congregation will have a lifetime household income of over $4 million, so we can do three times as much. And some families will have lifetime household incomes three to four times that level.
However, generosity is measured not in the absolute amount we give but rather in its relative proportion and our attitude toward it. We read about people who never earn more than a middle-class income but who adjust their spending so upon their death they leave millions of dollars to what they care about. The spirit of generosity, with an open heart, matters more than the gift.
Spiritual Generosity by Rev. Jim Sherblom is now available for pre-order at amazon.com