Bridging the generosity gap
“Walk the talk” has been a popular phrase for a long time. It’s one way we celebrate the importance of actions backing up words. Conventional walk-the-talk wisdom suggests that what we do with our lives matters more than what we say. Deeds trounce words. Words hold less value.
Yet the Christian life does not pit words against deeds. These two realities are inextricably bound together in a life of faith. The words of Jesus interpret his deeds, and his deeds embody his words. We say the gospel must be spoken, preached, or somehow articulated with words, and yet we contend it also must be lived. The words of scripture are indispensable, but they have deep implications for our behavior.
I thought about the critical balance of these two dimensions of faith when studying fresh survey results released by the Barna Group this week. According to researchers, Christians do not agree on the meaning of generosity. A large gap exists between those who believe generosity must include monetary giving and those who believe generosity can be confined to activities like volunteering, service, and hospitality.
What conclusions might we draw from this generosity gap? Several come to mind.
– Just as the Bible speaks to the value of words and deeds co-mingling in a person’s life, so the scriptures speak of followers of Jesus Christ as those who blend generous giving of money with generous living of a selfless nature. In the Bible, dollars and service to others are not mutually exclusive realms assigned to different kinds of people.
-Generosity is a dynamic force in life. Our understanding of generosity changes as we change. This is good. Change can reflect spiritual maturity. My own experience of people in the church defies the neat categories of Barna. I know people of all ages who understand the joy of giving happily and generously in monetary terms, and who manage to dedicate large chunks of their lives to serving others in beautiful ways. I also know others in every age group, as you may, who live far less generous lives for reasons only they could explain.
– The ministry of St. Paul Lutheran Church would not exist in any recognizable shape if people within the congregation decided to excuse themselves from either type of generosity. It’s taking them together that make for a whole person – a generously spirited soul.
Extravagant generosity is one of St. Paul Lutheran’s core values for one reason alone: We worship, love, and serve a Lord who is known to be extravagantly generous with us.
–Peter W. Marty, senior pastor