I want to share with you today from an article I found online (address at end of this post) about generosity. This is one of the articles I briefly alluded to in last Sunday’s sermon, but I did not have time to go into detail. It includes an interview with sociologist Christian Smith, who, with colleague Hilary Davidson, wrote a book entitled The Paradox of Generosity, which focuses on the findings of the Science of Generosity Initiative at Notre Dame. The research studied 2000 people over a 5-year period. In a nutshell, the research found that generous people are healthier and happier. Generosity includes both financial giving as well as “being emotionally available and hospitable.”
Some excerpts from Dr. Smith’s interview:
“The more happy and healthy and directed one is in life, the more generous one is likely to be, although that’s not guaranteed. It works as an upwards spiral where everything works together, or it works sometimes as a downward spiral if people aren’t generous.”
“It has to be a practice, it has to be something that is sustained over time, that people engage with regularly…. The empirical evidence was very clear. Nothing we tested where you just do it one time has an effect. But all the things that you have to sustain over time have that effect.”
“Most people could be more generous. They think they don’t have the money or the time but they could be more generous. I think people are afraid. They don’t realize that it’s good for them, that it would benefit them and not just other people. They’re afraid that it would be a loss. That if they gave money away or devoted their time, they would be losing something. …One of the points of publishing the book is to help people step out of the fear and step into a better place.”
“And that’s a good thing, of course, when people help their immediate, nuclear family. But the dynamics of generosity are such that people who are learning to be generous increasingly expand their circle to people beyond their most comfortable or the most intimate and there is a helping of ‘the other,’ and not just one’s own tribe, so to speak. That’s an important threshold to cross in being a generous person.”
There’s more in the article if you care to look it up. One thing that strikes me is that sometimes people think of science and faith as being at odds with each other. The science reported by Dr. Smith is very much in accord with the Scriptures. I quote again from 1 Timothy: “Tell them…to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.” (6:18-19) Let’s be very clear—the “treasury” promised here is not in the wealth of this world…it’s in “gaining the life that is truly life”…a life more fully as God has intended us to live. God has created us to be generous, just as God was first generous with us!
Bishop Lawrence McCleskey will preach in all 3 services this Sunday, inviting us to ponder our financial giving and the commitments for 2016 we are asked to make on October 18. I hope you’ll engage prayerfully in this time of “Growing in Generosity” and we’ll see that mission and ministry of First Church continue to grow!
See you Sunday at the “Growing in Generosity” Place!