Generosity is emerging in our society as a practice whose time has come. Bono of the rock band U2 is the spokesperson for ONE, the campaign to make poverty history. Consider Bono’s words: “God, my friends, is with the poor. And God is with us, if we are with them.”
The United Nations Millennium Campaign seeks to end the world’s extreme poverty by 2015 through the attainment of eight development goals. Religious bodies worldwide are adopting the goals as expressions of their Christian witness and service.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation focuses on being generous in Global Development, Global Health and US Education. The foundation’s value was doubled by a $31 billion gift from Warren Buffet.
Periodic financial publications are including philanthropy as a regular topic: Forbes, Business Week, Financial Times, and Kiplinger’s. Websites are coming online that address giving: generousgiving.org, newtithing.com and globalrichlist.com.
Counter to a United States culture that stresses materialism, accumulation and consumption, all major religions promote the concept that we live not just for ourselves, but for others. Generous behavior is an essential component of one’s faith.
Why generosity? Today North American churches exist in a society of abundance. However, the fear of scarcity dominates most stewardship talk and action. What would it mean for your congregation if generosity became a guiding value? Isn’t it time for a Generosity Department in your church?
Why not stewardship? Steward and stewardship have been important words and concepts for congregations in the 20th century. These biblical words, which prior to the twentieth century were used to talk about responsible Christian living, became the reason for supporting unified church budgets and expansive worldwide mission endeavors.
After a century of good use, stewardship has become more connected to pledging a church’s budget. During the annual hunt for a green October, congregations study stewardship texts, hear stewardship sermons and testimonies, and usually produce the same budget-support results.
Consider the following quote from Dr. Martin Marty: “Generosity, unlike stewardship, has no limits. It’s not that you’ve got to be generous, but you get to be. It’s not haranguing or threatening. It’s liberation!”
Mature congregational members have lived lives of faithful stewardship and consider tithing to be the norm of Christian giving. Younger congregational members do not warm to the practice of stewardship and tithing as they do to living a generous life.
The words steward and stewardship describe a role, a position and a responsibility for Christians. Generosity describes a trait, a behavior, a characteristic. Younger and newer church members respond more readily to generosity as a giving principle, and while they do, older members remain faithful to stewardship and tithing.
Generosity can lead younger members forward into faithful stewardship and tithing. Generosity is rising. Generosity’s time has come.