How Generous is Generous,

if it does not cost you anything?

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I come out of the supermarket after shopping, to be confronted by someone trying to sell me double glazing, pay TV, a different energy supplier or a charity collecting money for their particular cause. To the charity, I usually give a few coins of whatever amount I happen to have in my pocket. Realising that I am able to do this, and not be short of money, not even really notice having less money, made me consider, the nature of generosity.

When we think, or speak, about generosity today, my mind, and I assume other people too automatically goes to the giving of money. It is the quickest and, for those of us who can afford to, easiest thing to give. We drop a few coins in a charity collection often without a second thought. If we can give it so easily and not miss anything of what we have given, are we really being generous, or are we giving those few coppers as a substitute for generosity that actually costs us something, maybe a sum of money we would actually miss or maybe something beyond money?
When a poor woman came to the temple and gave 2 copper coins, Jesus told his disciples she had given more than anyone else (Mark 12:41-44). What she gave was small but what it cost her to give it was enormous; almost everything she had. That is generosity, generosity of a kind we never see today and almost all of us would shy away from.

Money is not the only thing to be generous with. Sometimes there are things more important, more appropriate or more valuable than just giving money. Giving your time can be the most valuable thing of all. Time to listen to a person, to chat, to be with them. Time to help someone, or some organisation, can be more valuable than money.

At Christmas, we give presents but sometimes not giving presents can be more valuable to the receiver, consider; you give a gift to a friend or acquaintance, who is less wealthy than you. Not perhaps an expensive gift, say only £5.00 (or 5 of whatever currency you use), but what is the effect on the recipient of you giving the gift? What if it creates a sense of obligation, to give a gift in return but which they can ill afford. Maybe by giving a gift in return, their family goes without something they need, because of your thoughtless, and often useless, gift to make yourself feel good. How has your ‘generosity’ helped them. Be generous, yes but think about the best kind of generosity for the situation. So the gift cost you £5.00, so what, you can afford it but can they?

If you are going to be generous, then be generous but don’t give tokens that you won’t even notice not having and is given mostly to salve your own conscience. Think about what you are giving and how you are giving it, money might not be most appropriate.

A generous spirit does not require you to give more than you can afford, but if it costs you nothing, or nothing that you notice being without, are you really being generous? And if you are going to give money, are you just giving it because it is quicker, easier and cheaper than paying another kind of cost?

“Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life.” – Confucius


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