Freedom in Generosity: A Generosity of Us

Posted by: Julie on Saturday, December 26th, 2009

Back in college, my roommate Amy and I used to do something when things were tough or when we started feeling like we were focusing too much on our own selfishness for whatever reason.  We would go out back of the Jewel-Osco near campus and pick up all the trash and put it in the dumpster.  You see, this particular Jewel somehow always had a massive amount of trash out back – an absolutely ridiculous amount, and it was one of those scenes where it broke your heart to think that at some point in the evening, someone’s boss is going to ask them to go outside and clean it up as part of their job at Jewel.  Amy and I hated the thought of that, and so we felt like as often as possible, it was something that we wanted to do for them.  Except the truth was, we were doing it more for us.

I can’t take credit for the idea – it was Amy’s.  She was always challenging all of us in taking a closer look at the reasons behind why we do things and why we spend so much time worrying about our own lives instead of looking up and looking out to help someone else.  It originally came about one Saturday night when I was particularly upset.  A big disappointment had occurred in my seemingly important college life, and I would not stop obsessing over it.  Finally she grabbed our coats, grabbed my arm, and said, “Come on, you’re coming with me.”  It was that night when she showed me the back of the Jewel and told me what we were going to do.  It was no heroic act or anything.  In fact, I’m pretty sure the Jewel employees rarely knew we were even there – because the trash seemed to pile up so freqently and they’d just have to do it the next night anyway.  But it was for us.  It was so we could stop focusing on the things we think are the end of the world in our lives and the disappointments we think are going to matter forever and humble ourselves for just a moment to gain a little perspective of why we were put on this earth.

I’m not sure why I remember those nights so clearly.  Maybe it’s because we did it like a bazillion times.  But they stick out more than mission trips, more than serving at homeless shelters, more than delivering Christmas baskets to every tollbooth person in the Chicagoland area.  I think it’s because of this dichotomy I always feel in the dilemma, “Is it about us, or is it not about us?”

As Christ Followers we are called to lay down our lives for the mission of Christ – to seek those who are lost and help them find their way back to Him.  Forsaking all our own wants, thoughts, and feelings, we are called to put the needs of others before our own.  It’s most definitely not about us.

But then I think of the work God does in this world and how He accomplishes it.  He accomplishes it through His people.  It’s not that He can’t accomplish His mission without us; but He does accomplish it with us.  Our physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health is critical to our ability to follow Him and accomplish His mission.  So yeah, it is kind of about us in some ways.  And that is ok.

For me, those Saturday nights, Tuesday nights, some Monday nights of picking up trash in the back of the Jewel had nothing to do with a ministry project, absolutely no one knew we were doing it except us, and it was totally and completely all about humbling ourselves and remembering that our lives are about something bigger than our situations, bigger than our feelings, bigger than our disappointments – even bigger than our triumphs.  Our lives are about humbly serving our God.

Anyone who knows me knows that I think, breathe, study, bleed, and dream about generosity.  I am fascinated by it, challenged by it, inspired by it, and perplexed by it.  We so often think of generosity as this noble thing we do for someone else – whether that someone else is an organization, our church, or another person.  As Christ Followers, we seemingly do these generous acts in the name of God as to bring glory to Him from our obedience and sacrifice.  And I believe that is true – it’s definitely true.  Generosity in the name of God to the mission of God brings glory to God.  Without a doubt.

But I ponder so often about this subject of freedom.  Freedom is a word that unfortunately got stuck with the charismatics and pentecostals when it may have been overdramatized to mean some sort of euphoric, out of control state in which our human minds have no reason.  (No offense whatsoever here to my charismatic friends.  I too was a part of that camp just 6 or 7 short years ago, so I get it. :)  )  But freedom – true freedom – I believe lies in this dichotomy we speak of, the tension between whether or not it is really about us.

What does it require of us to truly turn over our lives to God?  Our time?  Our money?  Our relationships?  What does that really mean?

It means nothing is out of the question.  Nothing.  It means no matter what entitlement we think we have because of whatever situation has happened to us, nothing excuses our ability to give it all to God.  Nothing.  It means we don’t get a ‘pass’ just because of this or that, because of some earthly scenario that has caused it to be an inconvenience for us to serve God at this particular time.  No, I am afraid not.

But why are we so inclined to feel this way?  And why are we (yes, us as pastors are sometimes the worst) so inclined to quickly make excuses for people when they are in this ‘perceived inconvenience’ and cause them to miss out on the joy and freedom that is generosity.  I’m not speaking solely of financial generosity here – though that is obviously one of the most sensitive to discuss and thus, in my opinion, the most impactful when released – but I am speaking of whole life generosity.  A generosity of us.

See, it is about us.  It is about us living our lives in such a way that we aren’t caught up in what we may or may not get out of life, what we may think or feel on a particular day, what accomplishments of our own we did or didn’t make.  What would it look like if we lived tomorrow like we were called to a generosity of us…. I’d love to see what would happen….

For me, I surely need to abandon some things that are standing in the way of generosity of myself.  But I need others around me in order to do it.

So would you join me?  Humbly take out the garbage while no one is looking and open up your eyes to what God is asking of you.  It’s not about you but it is about you… It’s about us.

Topics: Generosity


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