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The Triumph Of Generosity

December 7, 1992



TO students of the Bible, it is not surprising that greed again and again proves to be a source of unhappiness and failure. Greed is not in keeping with God's nature. And since greed and generosity are such total opposites, they can't coexist in any way. Greed's failure--illustrated by financial scandals and the collapse of shady commercial ventures--really points to the ultimate victory of generosity. A generous spirit of living is closely allied to God.

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The Bible tells us as much in many places. Mark's Gospel points out, for example, that Christ Jesus warned his followers about the corruption caused by love of position and power. The Bible account continues: ``Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much." Jesus also observed a poor woman contributing ``two mites"--a tiny amount by conventional standards. And he said of her contribution: ``Verily I say unto you, That th is poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury."

Doesn't this reaffirm that generosity is really a spirit of love and truth by which we live, not a specific act or amount of material giving? It was the woman's willingness to give that made her gift great. Generosity, then, is more than just a positive human quality. It's something we reflect from God, divine Love. Consequently we can never be cut off from it.

Such spiritually based generosity does rely on great resources. But these resources are spiritual, not material. Spiritual resources follow naturally from the nature of God. He is divine Spirit. What He gives to man is also spiritual--intelligence, love, goodness, life, sustenance. Since God's giving to man is spiritual, what He gives is not in limited parcels. It can only be thought of in terms of an unending spiritual supply. It's given by God--constantly--yet He always retains it because He is divine and infinite Spirit, the creator and source of all good.

In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, says simply, ``Giving does not impoverish us in the service of our Maker, neither does withholding enrich us." In another of her books, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, she says: ``He who is afraid of being too generous has lost the power of being magnanimous. The best man or woman is the most unselfed."

There is always clear victory in generosity. Here's a story I like from Abraham Lincoln's childhood that shows the positive effects generosity has. When he was seven, the story goes, Abe caught his first fish one summer day. On his way home, though, Abe met a soldier. Though friendly, the soldier couldn't help eyeing that delicious-looking fish! Suddenly, Abe realized the man was hungry. It was wrong to be hungry!

The conversation that followed went something like this:

`` `Here! you take this fish!' Abe said.

`` `Why lad! I couldn't take your fish away from you--and the first one you've caught, too! It wouldn't be right,' protested the soldier.

``. . . `It's not big enough to make more than a bite apiece for Pappy and Mommy and Sally and me. But it will make a good meal for you,'" Abe said.

Won over by the young boy's logic, the soldier gratefully took the fish. I like to think that what Abe had in his heart was much greater than what keeping the fish would have meant.