One of St. Augustine’s most well-known quotes is, “Lord, give me chastity and continence, but not yet!” As he began his conversion back to the faith, he desired to follow God but was still unwilling or afraid to let go of the comforts and pleasures of his current lifestyle. Many people approach the idea of generosity in a similar way. We see generosity as a goal, but we aren’t ready to commit to actually giving up our time, talent, or treasure.
There are plenty of seemingly good reasons for postponing generosity. For example, you might want to wait until you’ve completely paid off any debt, established a large emergency fund, or funded your retirement. All of these are admirable goals, but they don’t need to be complete before living generously. Generosity is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and can be a part of our lives no matter what our circumstances are. Consider the story of the widow’s mite from Luke 21:1-4. Even in her poverty, the widow chose to contribute to the temple’s treasury. If she didn’t wait for a better time to give, maybe we shouldn’t either.
Many times, God’s commands push us out of our comfort zones. We want immediate results, but God encourages us to be patient. We want revenge, but God calls us to forgiveness. We want immediate gratification, but God calls us to self-control. We want to feel comfortable and secure, but God wants us to be generous. Is God making these demands on our lives because he wants us to be miserable? Of course not! In fact, the opposite is true. He wants us to be free from attachments that keep us from experiencing the fullness of life that he created us for.
When we practice generosity, we receive so much more in return than what we give. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” That doesn’t mean that if we give money away, we will receive money in return. The blessings that we receive are usually of far more importance in God’s eyes. In return for your generosity, you might gain the blessings of peace, joy, obedience, greater trust in the Lord, and increased love for others.
If you would like to grow in generosity, consider taking the following steps:
- Pray! Ask God to direct your thoughts and decisions around generosity. Reflect on the reasons why you might be hesitant to donate your time, talent, or treasure. Does your reluctance to give come from fear of not having enough for yourself or are you uncomfortable with the idea that you might have to give up something in your life?
We are never alone in our journey to answer God’s call. By going to him in prayer, we can ask for his help and strength as we face opportunities to be generous in ways that take us out of our comfort zones.
- Recognize that God is the true owner of all our time, money, and possessions. We are temporary stewards. 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 proclaims, “You are great and powerful, glorious, splendid and majestic. Everything in the heavens and earth is yours, and you are king, supreme ruler over all. All riches and honor come from you; you rule everything by your strength and power, and you are able to make anyone great and strong.”
God has allowed us to have blessings in our lives and he has given us control of making decisions about what we will do with what we’ve been given. It’s tempting to use the gifts we’ve received in selfish ways. But as stewards, we are called to cultivate our gifts, share them with others, and use them to help build up God’s kingdom on earth.
Part of being a good steward is knowing how your resources are being used. By tracking and budgeting your spending, you might find areas that you can reduce or eliminate unnecessary expenses. You can also budget your time to determine whether your time is being spent wisely. When spending is well managed, it is easier to find extra funds that can be used for donations.
- Think about the impact your generosity can have on the causes or organizations that are close to your heart and that you are passionate about. There are so many wonderful organizations that need donations of money, time, and talent to fulfill their missions but as individual people, we can’t support every charity that exists. Since you can’t do everything, we encourage you to prioritize giving to your parish and then focus on other ministries and the poor and needy.
Whether you choose a to support a pro-life pregnancy center, a homeless shelter, a food bank, or any other charity, you are being the hands and feet of Christ to those in need through your generosity. The Church and ministries that receive your gifts will be able to create an even bigger impact in the world because of what you have shared.
- Take a leap of faith out of your comfort zone and start living generously. It is great to think and pray about generosity, but it’s also important to act in faith. Commit to donating money or volunteering your time and talents to a ministry. Don’t worry if you think you can’t give enough to make a difference. Just as Jesus took the two fish and five loaves of bread and fed thousands, he can take what we offer and transform it into something powerful. You don’t have to wait for the perfect situation or the perfect amount for a donation. Just start giving of your time, talent and treasure now and experience how God uses them to transform you and others.
St. Augustine was eventually able to get past his hesitations and ended up becoming a great Saint. By embracing the practice of generosity, we can follow in his footsteps by detaching ourselves from the temporary things of this world and focusing on the eternal peace and joy that comes from following the Lord without inhibition.
If you are interested in learning more about managing your money from a Catholic perspective, consider facilitating or participating in our Faith & Money Matters Bible Study.