By The Rev. Ellis Brust
The Spirit of Generosity
Witnessing the spiritual transformation in the lives of others is one of the great joys of pastoral ministry. Our formation as disciples and witnesses of Jesus is usually a gradual process by which the Holy Spirit changes our focus, decisions, and actions in small ways throughout our whole lives. As water carves rivers out of hard rock, so the Holy Spirit etches the image of our Savior into our lives each new day. One of the ways we see this image being formed is in giving and generosity.
Generosity is broadly seen throughout history and cultures as a valued character trait. We teach young children to “share” toys with siblings and friends. We expect young adults to demonstrate “service” activity in college and job applications. However, Christians understand generosity as something much more than “being nice” or “doing good.” Growing in a spirit of generosity is one way to recognize Christ-like transformation in ourselves and others.
The Holy Spirit is at work in the lives of every person on the planet to bring them to salvation. In the lives of those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit’s work is to form us more, and more, each day into Christ-likeness – and this work never stops. The Spirit works to create in us a deeper sense of worship, prayer, desire to learn and grow in faith, and also to become a generous witness of Christ – who gave His life for us. Generosity is at once a gift of the Spirit and a spiritual discipline to exercise – a blessing to receive and a habit to develop.
A spirit of generosity goes beyond financial stewardship – it does includes this, of course, but is much broader. Those who continually allow the Holy Spirit to transform their hearts in generosity are people filled with grace, mercy, kindness, gentleness. Generosity is expressed in their giving, but also in their words, caring, and expressions of concern. Harsh words which once crossed their lips are bridled. The tendency to gossip which once consumed is replaced by a desire to build up others. Time, talents, and personal treasures become gifts to give away in Christ-like love and joy. The generous gift of the Spirit becomes a life-discipline which grows, and grows, and grows within us.
How do we develop the spirit of generosity in our lives? Begin by asking the Lord to show you where you resist being a generous person. What patterns of selfishness, greed, or grasping do you cling to in your life? Where is your language less-than-generous toward others? Where do you make excuses about giving your time, using your talents, or offering your treasures? How do fears become a consuming focus, taking your eyes off the grace and provision of God all around you? Next, ask the Spirit to grow generosity in attitude and actions within your life. Soon you’ll see that small steps have become giant leaps of faith and love in action. Lastly, make different choices which reflect Christ-like generosity. Choose to practice grace and generosity toward others in attitude, words, use of your time, as well as your treasure. The words of the old hymn, “To give and give and give again, as God hath given thee,” remind us of the necessity of our participation in growing as disciples of Jesus Christ. In this way, we bear witness to the spiritual discipline of generosity which is a hallmark of our Christian faith.
We are made in the image of God – an image which sin, selfishness, pride, and greed erase. The transforming power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives first brings us to faith and then etches a renewed image of Christ into our lives. Let the Holy Spirit of Almighty God form in your life deep lines of love, inscriptions of grace, and engravings of generosity each new day. Give and give and give again, as God hath given thee.
The Rev. Ellis Brust is the Rector of Church of the Apostles, Kansas City. You can read more about him here.