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?