It is often said that the United States of America is a generous nation full of generous people. According to Giving USA, charitable giving totaled $471.44 billion in 2020 up from $448.66 billion in 2019. According to the report, giving by individuals totaled $324.1 billion, up 2.2%. This is even in the complex landscape of the COVID pandemic and the racial and social justice movements. We saw cracks in the US infrastructure like never before, showing us glaring needs, and Americans continued to give billions of dollars to charity to help. Having been blessed to have a long, successful career in philanthropy, I have seen many examples of this generosity in action. It inspires me to see individuals live in the Spirit of generosity, giving so much of themselves to help the good causes in which they believe.
We are called to be generous, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” (Luke 12:48) If you have heard that line of wisdom, you know it means that we are held responsible for what we have.
The ninth fruit of the Spirit we explore today is generosity. What exactly is generosity? Generosity is bigheartedness grounded in an abundance mentality. It is unselfish and expresses itself in sharing. It is extended to family and friends, strangers, and particularly those in need, and is offered not only as money, food, and clothing, but also as time shared and assistance provided. We believe that if we have been blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, and the like, we benefit others by sharing those blessings. It is a way of being. Generosity includes how we view and treat others. It includes mercy, justice, humility, and meekness as well.
The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. Church tradition lists twelve: charity (love), joy, peace, patience, kindness (benignity), goodness, generosity (longanimity), gentleness (mildness), faithfulness (faith), modesty, self-control (continency), chastity. Galatians 5:22-23 Vulgate As we mature in our faith, aligning our will with God’s, all the characteristics of our spiritual fruits, including the fruit of generosity, will grow. “’We live by the Spirit’; the more we renounce ourselves, the more we ‘walk by the Spirit’” (CCC 736).
Let’s look at some of the benefits of learning, understanding, and living in the fruit of generosity:
- Generosity is defined as noble in behavior or actions; principled, not petty; kind, magnanimous. It is willing to give and share unsparingly; showing a readiness to give more (especially money) than is expected or needed.
- What we believe about God is what is stored in our heart and is the lens from which we see the world. How attuned are you to God’s generosity?
- Our God is a lavish, overflowing, generous, bountiful, magnanimous God who loves to give good gifts to his children. He even blesses those who hate him with thousands of good things. How much more will he bless those he bought with his Son’s precious blood.
- When we look at his creation, we can catch a glimpse of God’s overflowing, lavish nature. He created billions of galaxies and stars. The sun, the moon, the planets…God didn’t create just one simple kind of star. He is over-the-top creative…generous. The heavens declare the glory of God, including his abundant, bountiful nature.
- God richly provides all things for us to enjoy. “Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be conceited and not to put their hope in the uncertainty of wealth, but in God, who richly provides all things for us to enjoy.” 1 Timothy 6:17 What an amazing God – he richly provides all things for us to enjoy: family, friends, food, sunsets, sports, art, music, delightful weather, books, laughter, movies, rest, sleep…everything that we enjoy are gifts from God.
- “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift comes from our Father. And he doesn’t change. He wouldn’t give us this beautiful world and send his Son to save us, then change and stop giving us good gifts.
- Generosity is a fruit of the Spirit when we see God as a generous God. Just like love, peace, and patience, the generous sharing of our things with others may be something that happens in our lives when God’s presence fills us to overflowing.
- Generosity can ease the burden of longanimity, or long-suffering – the ability to wait and to stay calm or strong in difficult situations that go on for a long time such as years of long-suffering and illness. Longanimity, one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, sounds like the definition of patience, but it is different. Patience is properly directed at other’s faults, to be long-suffering is to endure quietly the attacks of others. Longanimity allows us to share our generous Spirit with others as we are called to help carry the cross of others in love.
- Generosity overcomes the sin of greed. Our lives can be filled with a yearning for material goods. Material objects can block our vision of Christ who told us to give to the poor. This means not only do we give what we have in “excess” but to surrender all of our time, money, and spiritual gifts to those in need.
- Infused by the theological virtue of love, the cardinal virtue of justice bears fruit as generosity.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.Proverbs 11:25
How do we cultivate the fruit of generosity? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Look to Jesus. Jesus, a divine person (with both a divine nature and human nature), was most generous to all despite his lack of material wealth on earth. Jesus gave it all:
- He gave of his time, his talents, his heart, his energy, and his life.
- He took the time to listen to people, to have compassion for them, to spend his days and nights caring for them and teaching them to do the same.
- He healed people, sought justice out for them, engaged people (even if they were out to entrap him), and he forgave people for inflicting harm against him.
- He spared no expense, including the expense of his own blood, to see the arrival of the Kingdom of God through.
- Be guided by the Holy Spirit. If we invite the Holy Spirit to guide our lives, we will be just as generous as Jesus was.
- We will learn to give our all so that others might experience the hope, healing, and wholeness that we experience.
- If we are truly generous, we will not only give our money to things, but we will be deeply engaged in the seeking out of social justice.
- We will be deeply engaged in loving and showing mercy to others.
- We will be deeply engaged in spending our time with others and invest ourselves in ushering the same Kingdom that Jesus opened the doors to nearly 2,000 years ago.
- Live in Abundance. We are all given the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love by God. Capture every thought and take it to God to ensure you are thinking and living in the spirit of abundance rather than succumbing to the lies of the world which breeds fear and scarcity. Own it – God is a generous God!
- Listen to Great are You Lord. Realizing it’s His breath in our lungs…Wow! What a generous God.
We know that God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:6-8) and generosity is a gift of the Spirit when we give to others more than is required, not counting the cost. The world needs our generosity, for us to give our time, talents, and treasure to those who touch our hearts. I pray that we all be filled and be transformed with God’s Holy Spirit so that we can bear the spiritual fruit of total generosity in our lives so that it becomes a way of being, our true nature.
Smitten with the fruit of generosity,