September 2007 - Vol. 11

Participants from the Genesis Academy also attended On Holiday

Living Generous Lives

by Brian Shell

Putting it all on the line
This past August I was at the On Holiday gathering of 640 people from the Sword of the Spirit communities in  Europe and the Middle East Region, in De Vossermeren, Belgium. The Lord spoke a word to those present, and particularly to the young men and women there, people my age. The word is that he is calling us to live generous lives. He does not want a generous gift, nor is he asking for us to live a decent Christian life, but rather to put it all on the line and to give our last penny. 

To live a generous life does not mean to go on a mission trip, or to give more than the usual to the church or a Christian community, nor even to sign up for a service over and above what we are asked. These might all be aspects of living generously, but what the Lord was telling us was that to live a generous life was first and foremost a question of the heart, mind, and will. From these flow actions. If these are set on living for others — far beyond the proverbial “call of duty” — then our giving, our going, our living will reflect that.

Transforming one's heart
In reality, our living always reflects what is in our minds and hearts (Matthew 12:33).  As I thought about this I wondered at the fact that I do not always know what is in my heart, and when I do, it is often a very blurred knowledge. I recalled a story of a hermit who was sitting in silence beside a small pond and a traveler passing by saw him. He approached and asked the monk why he always sat in solitude and silence. The peaceful hermit dipped his hand into the water and scooped up some water and let it fall back into the pool. He asked the traveler to look into the pool and tell him what he saw. The traveler responded that all he could see was water. The monk went on to explain that our heart is like this pool of water, and then he asked the pilgrim to look again. He saw his own perfect reflection in the now still water.

This was a simple story I heard as a child, but as I thought about living generously, about not giving money or even time, but giving my whole self, I knew that I must teach my heart and my mind a new way. So this is the first step to living generously: knowing and transforming my heart. 

A new response to the Lord's call
This call at De Vossermeren was given in a special way to the young people in the Sword of the Spirit, but also to the less young. Peter was a grown man when the Lord called him; Abraham was an old man. Yet God asked them the same question that he asked the rich young man in the tenth chapter of Mark. After the young man affirmed that he had kept all the commandments from his youth, Jesus said lovingly to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  The call that we received in De Vossermeren is not a new one, but our response must be new.

So it is not only a matter of the heart, but also of letting this “heart condition” change our actions, letting it affect our whole lives. For the young, like myself, this can feel daunting. We plan on having many years left in our life, and just the simple phrase “our life” seems to be taken away in this invitation. Yet if we can trust in the promises of Christ before we trust in our emotions or fear, then we will remember the promise he makes twice in Matthew, that “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Responding with faith and hope
We are surely rich men and women. Not only with our modern world’s long-life expectancy and our comforts unimagined in Jesus’ time, but also in the possessions that cannot be priced: our families, community life, and not least the costly salvation Jesus bought for us with his blood. How many of us, will hear this invitation from the Lord and, like the young man in the Gospel, be “disheartened by the calling, and go away sorrowful” because we love our possessions too much? Or will we rather respond in faith to this call, setting our hope “fully on the grace that will be brought to us” when we say yes to the Lord (1 Peter 1:13). With the help of this continued grace, and with real decisions, this way of generous living can permeate our Christian communities, our homes, our workplaces, and produce a deeper conversion of heart. So let us follow the example of the widow, putting all we have (even if it is only two pennies) onto the altar; and after we have put all, to give ourselves and let us see where that takes us.

[Brian Shell is an affiliate member of the Servants of the Word. He is currently a university student in Beirut and actively involved in University Christian Outreach.]

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