Practicing Generosity

This is my radio devotion for Tuesday, March 2, on KCNI. Thanks to KCNI for airing weekday devotions from the pastors of the Custer County Ministerial Association.

Do you want the world to be a better place? Are you a little skeptical of God or God’s presence in your life or the world?

This week, as the season of Lent takes off, I want to explore some concrete ways to experience God’s transforming presence in our lives and the world.

A week ago, out of the blue, one of our friends brought us cupcakes he’d baked. It was obvious that he’d put a lot of effort into them. They were decorated beautifully, and they tasted as good as they looked. Through this generous act, our friend made our family feel known, loved, and cared for. He, in his generosity, made our lives, our little corner of the world, better and more grace-filled.

As I think about those cupcakes, I’m reminded of Jesus’ instructions for faithful living found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel. He tells those gathered to “be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 6:1). Sometimes, we might think this verse is about keeping our religion private. But, given the lessons that follow this verse, I think what he means is more like, “Live out your faith because it’s the best way to live, not because you want someone to think you’re religious.” It’s in this spirit that Jesus continues:

“Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:2-4).

So, do we want the world to be better than it is? Do we want to feel more closely connected to God? If so, here Jesus gives us a simple practice: give for the benefit of others; give, not because someone will reward us or think we’re so great; give, because it spreads joy and care. As I experienced with the cupcakes, giving spreads joy, connection, and love.

Sometimes, pastors and churches talk predominantly about giving in terms of financial commitments to our churches. That is a real way to practice generosity that spreads joy and helps us grow in connection with God. However, that’s much too narrow a way to hear Jesus’ message. That’s why the cupcakes were so meaningful: they were a gift given out of love and care. We can do things like that every day. We can make things for others. We can invite others to meals. We can make donations to the Ministerial Association Food Pantry through the grocery stores. We can give of our time, by visiting or calling someone. We can give a word of blessing or encouragement to a friend, family member, co-worker, or stranger. Jesus, here, is inviting us to spread the grace of God’s kingdom by giving something of ourselves solely for the good of others.

When we give, Jesus makes our lives and the world better, one gift, one person at a time. May we experience God through giving today, and throughout this season.

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