Radical Giving: Ouch, that hurts.

I’ve been thinking about this conception of generosity (and thinking about posting it) since I first read it in June. So without any further ado, here’s another excerpt from Glittering Vices: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins and Their Remedies, by Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, for today’s Sabbath meditation:

If we are used to having too much, even giving up luxuries feels like a sacrifice. Like a Lenten fast in which we deem it adequate to give up a luxury (chocolate), instead of the main course (meat), does what we give away consist merely of the leftovers we would have garage-saled anyway? Compare this measure of generosity to the counsel of Aquinas: “It is enough for people to have only a few things, so [generous*] people are commendable because in general they give away more than they keep.” As if it were obvious, he explains that God gives some people excess riches “so that they might have the merit of good stewardship.” Aquinas assumes that most of one’s income and possessions are not to be spent on upgrading one’s own lifestyle, but to be given away. To contemporary Christians, this isn’t obvious at all. It is a daunting challenge. [ p. 103]

* I inserted “generous” here as a comprehension aid. The word in Aquinas is actually translated into English as “liberal,” which comes from liber, to be free. In this case, that means free with money and free from money. It is the healthy medium where a virtuous person resides. (The avaricious person then would be the opposite then–a slave to money.)

Defining a “generous” person as someone who gives away more than she keeps is, well, it sounds like one of those “let those who have ears to hear” kind of moments we get after parables. And truth be told, I find it pretty challenging, but not in a “yeah, whatever, as if that were possible” kind of way.

No, I really think there’s ears-to-hear truth in it. It sounds radical at first, but I’m not so sure it is.

What do you think?

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2 comments on “Radical Giving: Ouch, that hurts.

  1. Christi Hemati says:

    I love the quote from Aquinas and the connection you’ve made between generosity and being free with/from money! Russ and I feel blessed with the 5 years we had living on very little in Waco, because now that we are getting an actual income (and it still feels like a ton of money to us even though it’s just one meager professor’s salary), we do feel like we have a great opportunity to care for and give to others in a way we couldn’t before. It isn’t that we don’t struggle with covetousness or fail to give when we should, but we do find so much pleasure in having a home to share with our students, kids’ clothes and toys to give to other families that might need them, and a guest room to let family or friends come stay with us for extended periods when they need to. Even having the money to buy a nice Bible for a student who is becoming a Christian is a new thing for us.

  2. elizabeth says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! You and Russ are some of the most hospitable & generous people I know, and I often think of you when a sudden guest makes me feel inconvenienced or when plans just don’t go the way I wanted them to–and that happens more often than I’d like to admit. But then I think of you two (for real, I do!), and your openness and hospitality, and it helps me get my priorities back in line.

    Remember the time you let us come over to your apartment in Texas right after you’d met us (our apartment was having work done on it), and we were just sitting around and reading, and your cat attacked J while he was petting it? I can distinctly hear the “whap!” sound of the paw smacking J’s face. His glasses went flying. We still tell that story to new people we meet who have cats.

    Thanks again for being you, Christi.

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