Radical Generosity in a Declining Economy
In light of recent economic events, my natural instinct has been to find ways to cut expenses, and try to save as much money as possible. This is good, but I feel that I can take this mentality to an unhealthy extreme. You see, I’m convinced that God wants me to be generous with my finances, looking for opportunities to help those in need. I’m also convinced that if more of us (myself included) were more generous with what we’ve been entrusted, we could have a significant and tangible impact on the poverty, hunger, homelessness and destitution that is present in our communities, and in our congregations. I’ve always been struck by the economic approach taken by the early church:
“Now all the believers were one in heart and soul, and nobody called any of his possessions his own. Instead, they shared everything they owned. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was on them all. For none of them needed anything, because everyone who had land or houses would sell them and bring the money received for the things sold and lay it at the apostles’ feet. Then it was distributed to anyone who needed it” (Acts 4:32-35).
For those of us living in a wealthy, capitalist, free-market society, this sort of approach is completely counterintuitive. Imagine, for example, that a presidential candidate suggested that we adopt the economic approach of the early church. He/she would be immediately discounted as a radical socialist! If I’m truly honest with myself, the idea of not having things that belong to me – the books on my shelf, the car in my driveway, the food in my refrigerator – is almost unimaginable. After all, haven’t I earned these things? Haven’t I worked hard for the money I’ve earned? I harbor a certain sense of entitlement. It is this sort of attitude that I must continually fight against.
Even in the midst of an economic slowdown, most of us still have far more money than we really need. I’m convinced that we are to be concerned about greater things than our pocketbooks, striving to see God’s kingdom come, rather than our wallets full. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus assures us: “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33).
What might it look like if we adopted this sort of mentality? What if finances took a backseat to the Kingdom of God? What if we stopped placing so much value on our possessions, and began to see the needs of those around us? What if the church was once again known for a group of people who were radically generous, sharing their possessions and distributing resources to those who were in need? What if we began to challenge the rampant consumerism of our society, instead of willingly buying into it?
I know this sort of change is possible, and that it starts with a thorough examination of my own attitudes and tendencies. It’s my hope and prayer that my view of the world is being continually transformed to mirror that of Jesus Christ, whose heart breaks for the marginalized and the penniless. I want to live a life of radical and reckless generosity, fueled by a burning and unquenchable love for my Savior. Some might discount this as foolish idealism that is detached from the reality of our world. I see it as the very clear and fervent message of Jesus, and the only true answer to the reality of this world.