“As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”
1 Timothy 6:17-19
As Christians we participate in a generous movement of love that flows from God to others. Theologians describe this as the overflow of God’s Trinitarian communion. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, invite us to participate in that divine dance of relationship.
Life could be described as a movement of love that has four rhythms, a cycle of receiving, co-creating, simplifying, and sharing. Through Christ, we become a channel of God’s love into the world. When any of these four rhythms get clogged or disrupted, it leads to a life of fragmentation and scarcity.
We are embodied beings. Our physicality (our body) participates in a relationship with God and others. The flow of God’s love includes material provision. We cannot divide our mental, spiritual, and physical lives as if only one dimension of our existence belongs to God. Jesus teaches us the purpose of our existence is to, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27-28).
Loving God involves stewardship of God’s gifts in our lives. Stewardship can be understood as an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. The concept of stewardship can be applied to the environment and nature, economics, health, property, information, theology, cultural resources, and even our own personhood.
Stewardship includes the material aspect of our existence. One dimension of our material existence includes our finances.
Generosity is an attribute of God. Generosity is God’s primary love language, for “God so loved the world he gave…” (Jn 3:16). God demonstrates his love for us in the multitude of ways God gives. God gives to us, but God also desires to give through us. When we become a channel of blessing and provision in the lives of others it is a fountain that can never run dry. God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), God’s resources are endless. When we set our will to trust and obey God, he will resource that which he has called us to do (Mk 11: 24).
Our lives are caught up in the generosity of God through primarily these four rhythms:
In this four-week blog series I will do a deep dive into each one of these rhythms. Each week I will provide an exercise, or a kind of homework which will help us more fully live into each rhythm. John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, will serve as our guide. His profoundly simple wisdom around generosity can be summarized by this statement, “Earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” These are the three basic points of John Wesley’s famous sermon entitled, “The Use of Money.”
In 1789, Wesley was concerned that the Methodists of his day were ignoring the third part of his sermon. Wesley believed the primary reason for the ineffectiveness of the Methodist movement was due to their failure to give generously. Wesley said, “If Methodists would give all they can, then all would have enough.”
In a time when less than 1% of the global population owns 50% of the world’s wealth, the gap between “the haves and have nots” is pronounced. In some countries obesity is the leading health problem, while in others malnutrition and starvation. We are in a downward spiral of extraction, commoditization, and violence. In our rampant consumerism and its byproduct—waste—we are destroying the planet that cradles our life. The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly dramatic in what climatologists have called the “hinge decade.” What we do now will determine whether our children inherit an earth that is inhabitable or not.
While “being the change we want to see in the world” has become a cliché it is still true. Each of us can play a part in helping our communities flourish. We need to sound a clarion call to awaken people to the profound generosity of God, and how that generosity should flow through us in loving provision for those experiencing poverty and suffering.
In this series, we will explore how the four rhythms of generosity can help us toward that end. Stay tuned for the next post on the first rhythm… Receiving!