Dear Christ Church,
This week you received an invitation from Fr. Cliff and the Vestry to participate in our church Pledge Drive. (You can catch up and read that note hereif you missed it). Generosity is one of our core values at Christ Church, a heart posture that’s central to what it means to be a disciple, someone who keeps company with Jesus. But there can be misgivings about what is meant or expected for generosity. So what, exactly, is the biblical virtue of generosity?
Biblical generosity doesn’t begin with the tithe. It doesn’t begin with a list of commands related to your income level or social status. Rather, the starting point for generosity begins in understanding God’s love of you. Biblical generosity is rooted in relationship more than rules, it’s anchored in receiving God’s attention before it’s concerned with how a person stewards their resources.
The very familiar Psalm 23 is emblematic of this type of spirituality.
The Psalm begins with an emphatic declaration, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” When a person begins to pray the psalm giving attention to the words and make them a prayer before God–they will suddenly find themselves praying something quite radical. The Lord is my shepherd means I am not my own shepherd. I am not my own leader. My projects, ambitions, and the areas I think I have agency are all laid at the feet of God and I accepted he is the ultimate Shepherd-leader of me.
And because he is the Good Shepherd, the psalm continues, “I shall not want.” Which is to say, the more I am able to trust God as the Good Shepherd who loves me and cares for me, then the more I will come to find myself provided for and safe under his care. I will embody a spirituality of contentment knowing that even in the most harrowing moments of life, “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” I am still in the presence and care of my Good Shepherd. And therefore, I’m always safe, always protected, learning to be content and living without want. Or, as Dallas Willard puts it in his short book on Psalm 23, “I am learning to live a life without lack.”
There isn’t some magical dollar figure that, if you give it, God suddenly begins to like you. Biblical generosity isn’t performance-ism. Rather, biblical generosity begins in the confident relational trust that God is my own shepherd, and all I have is freely given from him, and he will care for me. And therefore, I’m invited to trust his ways and give freely to others to extend God’s Kingdom on earth.
As part of the Pledge Drive, you will receive a pledge card in the mail or at the church or online. Thinking through this category of biblical generosity, I invite you to use these pledge cards as an instrument of prayer. Let them become a holy exercise of saying, “God, in light of your abundant care for me, here’s how I intend to respond this year.”