Living a generous life
Today on World Gratitude Day, I will be joining with many as we take time to reflect on the things in our lives for which we are grateful. And indeed September has already been a month to reflect on generosity and gratitude and the role it plays in our lives. Like me, I am sure you have followed the news of Mother Teresa’s recognition on 4 September, the evening before the UN’s International Day of Charity, which was established on this date to commemorate the anniversary of her death. Well-known for her self-sacrificial service in Calcutta amongst the poor, sick, orphaned and dying, her life is a remarkable example of a life lived with genuine generous spirit.
Christians of all traditions embrace the virtue of living a generous life in response to God’s generosity to us. Yet most of us struggle at times with generosity. Some of us feel compelled to compare the scale of our generosity with that of others, and then judge others for coming up short, or ourselves for not giving enough. Others feel resentment when they sense that someone has received ‘too much’ generosity. Still others may feel that they need to protect what they have, wrestling with a persistent fear that they won’t have ‘enough’.
So how can we become more authentically generous in the face of these struggles? I believe the key to living more generously is to focus with gratitude on the blessings in your own life. Recently, with the advent of positive psychology, a good deal of research has been conducted about the benefits of practising gratitude. But Christians have known for thousands of years that living with a heart that is grateful for God’s abundant grace nurtures a generous spirit.
In our work at Wesley Mission, I witness generosity as a living reality of the people who take part in all we are and do. In the work of our staff who have started our program Mums and Kids Matter, I see their generous spirit offering care and support to mothers struggling with mental illness so that their children can remain with them. I see volunteers offering their time with a generous spirit as they serve a free breakfast at our Wesley Oasis Centre in Newcastle, a drop-in centre for those experiencing homelessness.
I encourage you to focus your heart on the abundant generosity that God has given you. With that gratitude, we nurture a generous spirit with which we can then share the overflowing grace that God has shown us.