In the first two essays in this “Back to Basics” series for the Disciplined Order (much of which is based on Dr. Albert Day’s classic book, Discipline and Discovery), I set forth “The Cause of our Lifestyle.”  The primary “cause” or reason established in the first essay was our great need for it.  In the second essay I turned to the way that we overcome our failures and noted two complementary aspects of the DOC lifestyle.  On the one hand we must depend totally on God to make it happen; and on the other hand, self-discipline on our part is necessary.  But the key element from our side is the virtue of obedience, the first of eight set forth by Dr. Day.
 
            In the third essay we began to consider the calling of our lifestyle.  Under the heading of calling of our lifestyle, are several practical virtues that call us to specific, outward lifestyle decisions.  The first of these was simplicity.  If we live a life of simplicity in word and deed, we avoid a whole host of problems. 
 
            In the previous essay, the fourth, we took up the virtue of frugality.  Frugality is the act of economizing in the expenditure of resources.  To be frugal is to be economical, to be sparing.  We noted that “stewardship” is a closely related term that frequently is used in religious circles.  A person who is properly frugal will be a good steward, or manager, of the resources under his or her care.
 
            Now, to avoid the danger of slipping into stinginess, penny-pinching, or miserliness, one must exercise the next virtue, generosity.  That is, frugality must be balanced by generosity to keep us from allowing our frugality to become a selfish habit rather than a spiritual virtue.  Our conclusion, following Dr. Day, was that frugality is a matter of controlling our resources to God’s advantage.  It is a matter of refusing to permit our resources to control us, and thereby cause us to fail to fulfill God’s dream for us.
 
            Now then, we turn to the virtue of generosity.  For the Christian, generosity is the other side of frugality.  Interestingly, this virtue has more appeal for most of us than does frugality.  Even though we may not be overly generous ourselves, we have an appreciation for those who are. 
 
            We are much more likely to call a frugal person a “skinflint” or a “tightwad” than we are to call a generous person a “spendthrift.”  In our society philanthropists are much honored and admired.  We praise them, we want to be their friend, and we name our buildings after them (D&D, p.79). 
 
            Many years ago I attended the dedication of a new building.  A rich evangelical Christian had given three quarters of a million dollars towards its construction, and the building was named after him.  That was a lot of money in those days, and so the gift certainly was generous.  And the gift was extremely helpful to the institution in question.
 
            I’ll never forget the dedication service.  The donor was present, and the speeches given that day lauded that man to such a degree that I was actually embarrassed.  Since then, I always have thought of that situation as a classic example of how not to handle Christian philanthropy.  It could have been handled in a much more biblical manner.  But that is a different issue.  My point in mentioning it here is simply to illustrate the way we Christians generally admire generosity much more than frugality.
 
            However, that old selfish self that we keep talking about manages to keep most of us from real Christian generosity.  For real generosity is not merely giving something that we will never miss out of our abundance, which is what most of us do.  A Christian could give literally millions of dollars away; and the philanthropy would not necessarily reflect true, Christian generosity.  For the Christian virtue of generosity to be present, one’s motives must be pure. 
 
            All of us remember the story in Luke 21 that tells of an experience Jesus had in the temple.  There was a place in the temple where a series of offering boxes were located that made it convenient for the people to give to the temple treasury.  One day Jesus was there observing people giving their offerings.  Some rich people made large offerings.  But then a poor widow came, who gave only two small copper coins.  Jesus has something to say about the situation:  “I tell you the truth.  This poor widow has put in more than all the others.  All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” 
 
            Some people, probably most of whom do not tithe, seem to think that tithing is a very generous thing to do.  I suppose they think that, because it is far beyond their own commitment.  Others think of tithing as a sort of payment of dues, which releases the other nine tenths of their income to be used as they please.  Some of these also believe that “paying their dues” in this way will make the nine-tenths go farther.  But under the New Covenant, we are to give as we prosper; and most of us are capable of giving away more than a tenth of our income.  The act of tithing is a mere symbol.  It symbolizes a much larger consecration. 
 
            In reality, biblical Christian generosity is only possible after total consecration of everything we have to God for his service.  Indeed that is where true generosity begins.  The only way that we will attain this virtue is to give ourselves wholly and finally to God, and to do so without reservation or any lurking intent to take ourselves back again (D&D, p. 84).  It is that kind of generosity towards God that will make possible real generosity towards other people.  As Dr. Day, says, “It is amazingly simple after that!  So simple in fact, that until one does it, it seems incredible” (D&D, p. 85). 
 
            In addition, real generosity begins only at the point sacrifice.  It is not really generous to give what we will never miss.  And the consecration is not limited to our money.  It also includes our time and energy, indeed, our very selves.  Only after that kind of total consecration are we capable of true generosity.  And of course, true generosity will offset the dangers of frugality.  The money saved by good stewardship will be used for the good of others rather than for self-enrichment, because we will be free from self, things and people (D&D, p. 86).
 
            To expand on the freeing nature of generosity a bit, it undermines the possessive character of our selfish self.  We tend to be possessive of money, things, and even of people.  We learned this in relation to money and things in the last essay on frugality.  Sharing is not a characteristic of the natural self.  Unless we are motivated by a good business or social strategy, we are reluctant to part with our wealth.  But the commitment of everything we have to God (discussed above) enables us to exercise generosity; and that frees us from possessiveness of our money, our possessions, and even of our loved ones.  Yes, we also can be possessive of people.  The sin of jealousy easily can rise up within us, causing us to want to keep a short leash on our loved ones.  But trusting God with everything, including our loved ones, frees us from all possessiveness, and we are able to be truly generous.
 
            Now I want us to turn to practical issues.  What specifically can we do to exercise the virtue of generosity?  Well, in light of the above discussion, the place to begin is with a total consecration of ourselves and everything we have to God.  Then we will be free to use everything at our disposal for his glory. 
 
            Then we can consciously pray about what God wants us to do with our money, our possessions, our giftedness, and our time.  When we find ourselves in the company of another, we can give ourselves to that person as God representative and look for a way to be of service him or her (D&D, p. 87).  We can ask God to direct our business, our reading, and everything else in our lives in order to better serve him and those to whom he directs us.  As Day reminds us, we should be definite and concrete in these endeavors.  “Consider how much [God] has done for you; how little you have done for him.  Let his mercy melt your heart.  Then let that melted heart set some new patterns of generosity for you” (D&D, p. 88).
 
            To summarize, God is calling us to give all of ourselves and our resources to him.  Then as we learn to exercise the virtues that represent the calling of our lifestyle: simplicity, frugality and generosity, we will live more simply; we will be better stewards of our money; and we will give away a greater portion of our substance.  And as we do all of that, our ministry for Christ will benefit, because we will find ourselves growing more and more free of that old selfish self, things and people; and we will become more able to commune with God and grow in the likeness of Christ. 

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