Be generous and ready to share. 1 Timothy 6:18 NCV
A few years ago I was walking through London on a wintery night, and I passed a homeless man around my age. He was sitting on the ground, wrapped in a towel. I noticed that he was barefoot, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone looking so cold. My heart went out to him, but I kept walking.
As I walked on, I had an urge to go back and give the man my coat and my shoes. I had another coat at home, and other pairs of shoes. Yes, it would be a cold and awkward journey home, but I had spares. I kept walking. I was on a date, and I didn’t want to turn up barefoot. I told myself I would do something about it on the way back, if the man was still there. He wasn’t.
Thinking about it now, of course I should have stopped and acted on my good intentions. It seemed like a big deal at the time, but turning up at the restaurant with no shoes, having given them away, would not have hurt my chances with the woman I was meeting. Quite the opposite. But I was not ready to share.
That’s an extreme example, but it highlights the kind of rationalising we do when we see a need and choose not to be generous. Others are better placed to act, we tell ourselves, or have more to give. There are always reasons not to give our time or our money. There’s always a certain element of risk involved, however small. Our first thought is to protect what we have.
The Bible suggests that our natural instinct is misplaced. “It’s more blessed to give than to receive”, Jesus said. In which case we have it backwards: we’re actually missing out by keeping things for ourselves. How? Because being generous can powerfully change our perspective on life.
First of all, self-absorbed people are unhappy people, and generosity has a way of drawing us out of ourselves. If I gave you a £10 note and told you to give it to someone who needs it, it would change the way you looked at the people around you. You’d pay more attention to those passing in the street, or sitting on the bus. You’d be alert to their needs in ways you aren’t normally. Chances are you’d feel more alive, more engaged, more sympathetic.
You might also start to feel more grateful. If you’re noticing the needs of others more, your own needs might pale in significance. You might realise how much you already have. As you become aware of poverty around you, you might start to feel rich by comparison.
When that happens, our view of what we have begins to change too. Our money and possessions go from being our own personal treasure hoard, to being resources for blessing others. We stop thinking about what we have, and starting thinking about how much good we could do.
When the Bible invites us to “be generous and ready to share”, it’s an invitation to see the world differently. It’s an invitation to be transformed. You cannot give and remain the same.
Keep a generosity journal and take note of any stand out moments this week that inspire you!