Basically, we have two choices as to what we can do with the blessings we have received in our lives: We can cling to them, or we can share them with others. We can live a life of stinginess, or we can live a life of generosity.
The Message Bible’s translation of Proverbs 11:24 offers a wonderful picture of the difference between a heart that clings and a heart that is generous: “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.”
Commenting on this verse in his book, The Rest of God: Restoring Soul by Restoring Sabbath, Mark Buchanan writes, “This is more than a principle of financial stewardship, it’s a basic truth of life. Generous people generate things. And, consequently, their worlds are more varied, surprising, colorful, fruitful. They’re richer. More abounds with them, and yet they have a greater thirst and deeper capacity to take it all in. The world delights the generous but seldom overwhelms them.” (p. 83)
Unfortunately, I tend to be on the clinging side. Therefore, I am challenged by Buchanan’s words about stinginess: “Stinginess is parasitic, it chews life up and spits out bones. The stingy end up losing what they try so desperately to hold. As Jesus warned, those who store up treasure only on earth discover, too late, that such storage is merely composting…. Hoarding is only wasting. Keeping turns into losing. And so the world of the stingy shrinks. Skinflints, locked into a mind-set of scarcity, find that the world dwindles down to meet their withered expectations. Because they are convinced there isn’t enough, there never is.” (p. 83)
What I have found over many years of watching myself and others is that our tendency to cling to what we have comes out of the fear and bitterness and doubt and selfishness in our hearts. But generosity flows out of the love and gratitude and trust and compassion of our hearts.
Since the bedrock of stinginess is fear, bitterness, doubt, and selfishness, what stinginess produces is a withered down life. But since the bedrock of generosity is love and gratitude and trust and compassion, generosity produces fruitfulness in our own lives and in the world around us.
Take a look at the stingy people you know and at the generous people you know. Take a look at the difference in their own mental health and in the impact of their lives on others.
Dr. Norm Wakefield and Jody Brolsma point out, “Psychiatrist Karl Menninger observed that giving was a mark of mental health. He found that generous people are rarely mentally ill. Their focus is less likely to be inward. They do not have as great a need to hoard their resources. Generous individuals are less fearful that others will exploit them. Sharing their resources brings joy and fulfillment to their lives.
I love how Harry Emerson Fosdick portrays this truth: “The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are made of the same water. It flows down, clear and cool, from the heights of Hermon…. The Sea of Galilee makes beauty of it, for the Sea of Galilee has an outlet. It gets to give. It gathers in its riches that it may pour them out again to fertilize the Jordan plain. But the Dead Sea with the same water makes horror. For the Dead Sea has no outlet. It gets to keep.”
The mystery of life is that clinging leads to death, whereas generosity leads to life!
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa. Pastor Tripp can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.