Living Out of Abundance Rather Than Scarcity
Generosity done for the wrong reasons is easy to spot. It looks inauthentic.
According to a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, over the past two decades, charitable giving by U.S. companies has declined at an alarming rate, dropping to 15-year lows in the early 2000s and descending even lower to date.
Despite the fact that overall charitable giving by companies has decreased, what has increased is what is known as "cause-related marketing."
In other words, companies will strategically engage in philanthropy as a form of public relations, increasing their brand exposure in ways that will provide positive impressions among consumers as well as increasing employee morale.
While there may be some good that is done through the charitable contributions of companies who are engaging in this form of marketing, it has begun to come off as inauthentic.
According to the Harvard Business Review, cause-related marketing may lead to an overall sense of cynicism on behalf of the public, and can also serve as a distraction from the overall goals of the charity involved.
In other words, there's a difference between true generosity and self-aggrandizing, self-serving charity that often masquerades as philanthropy.
Richard Rohr once wrote:
Remember, you can be doing very good things, but if you are doing them with negative energy, the results will not be life-giving for yourself, for any around you, or for the world.
And generosity also can appear inauthentic when it's coerced either from a hard sell or through guilt. This is where most Christians live and breathe.
Those of us who claim to follow Jesus often find ourselves facing similar quandaries. When our donations of time, talent and treasure become something we do out of duty, or when we give in order to assert influence or control, we cease to be generous.
Diana Butler Bass recently wrote:
Duty-based gratitude is emotionally empty and causes resentment. Obligatory gratitude rarely has a heart. Rather, it breeds contempt and fosters injustice.
As followers of Jesus, we are called to be irrationally generous with ourselves and what we have for no other reason than we should do so as a response to the generous grace of God toward us.
And by irrationally generous, I mean with no thought to what it might cost us... without a sense of lack, of not having enough.
For those of us who claim to follow Jesus, to stumble after the rabbi who taught that in order to find your life, you needed to lose it... we need to learn what it means to live generously out of abundance and not scarcity.
If we are always focusing on need--we lean too far toward scarcity and it's all too easy to fall more in love with the Bread than the Baker, if you know what I mean.
But if we focus on gratitude, and the way our giving should be an irrational response to irrational grace--then we are on to something.
Be generous today and every day going forward. Give of yourself and what you have freely, without compunction, and without an agenda. Practice generosity alongside God, joining God in God's generous work of redeeming and rescuing, restoring, and resurrecting.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.