Jesus, Augustine, and Oprah

By November 15, 2019Church, Leadership

I believe most people want to be generous and live in a way that blesses others. They want to invest their God-given time, talent, and treasures in people and places that make a difference.

It’s often not a lack of desire that keeps people from living generous lives.

It’s fear.

The fear of not having enough left for yourself or family, the fear of losing what you do have, the fear of not having enough time, the fear of not being good enough or smart enough or talented enough.

These fears keep them from doing the things they can do.

When you think about generosity, are your thoughts based in fear?

What is the best antidote to fear? While courage is certainly helpful, it’s not courage alone. It’s not simply more education, though a better informed person is better equipped to analyze risks. It’s also not recklessness – that’s just plain crazy.

It’s gratitude! Thankful people are less likely to be fearful people, for their thankfulness keeps them focused on the blessings (resources) they already have.

What is the opposite of gratitude? It’s not ingratitude. This might surprise you, but it often shows up as envy.

There’s a reason why envy has historically been one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Envy is a gratitude killer because it takes my attention away from what I already have and focuses on everything I DON’T have.

It was Oprah Winfrey who once said, “If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.”

That is so true.

This is a principle Jesus himself modeled. In one of his biographies (the Gospel of Matthew), Jesus had spent a few days teaching over 5,000 people. By the end of the teaching experience, these were 5,000 hungry people who found themselves in a remote location without any food.

Here’s how the story unfolds …

Disciples – “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”

Jesus – “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

Disciples – “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.”

Jesus – “Bring them here to me.” Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, Jesus gave thanks.

Jesus taught us not to operate out of scarcity.

Living with a scarcity mindset means …

  • We will always be fearful and anxious.
  • We will become problem-finders and not problem-solvers.
  • Perhaps most dangerous of all: scarcity breeds selfishness.

Some of the most frustrated people I know are those who want to experience change but don’t want to do anything different. You may want the benefits of being generous, but you will only experience them when you become a generous person.

Writing in 4th Century, Saint Augustine put it this way: “God is always trying to give good things to us, but our hands are too full to receive them.”

Many people ask me, “Ken, where do I start?” That depends on where you are starting from.

If you’ve never given to good causes before: Make generosity a priority. Start with your heart.

If you want to give regularly: Base your giving off percentages. Pick a number and start there because it provides both a baseline and a discipline. For some people, using a percentage is uncomfortable. So are colonoscopies and those save countless lives.

If you want to develop a lifestyle of generosity: Practice progressive giving. Start with your financial plan. As your financial situation improves, change your percentages with it. Rather than increase your expenses when your income increases (like most of us do), increase your saving and giving instead.

Jesus to Augustine to Oprah … I think they may have been on to something.

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