The Most Convincing Case for Generosity Might Surprise You

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Perhaps more than most, I’ve written to make the biblical case for generosity. Eyeballing my blog pieces to date, I’ve likely penned over 22,000 words about generosity.

Generous giving is an echo of the grace of Jesus Christ “who became poor, so that through His poverty (we) might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9, NIV). The call-and-response of the Gospel to receive and give with gladness is the pulse of Christian living. 

But apart from Scripture, is there a case to be made for generosity? That is, can it stand on its own as a basic principle of human existence? Or more narrowly, can it be deduced as a priority by merely paying attention to the creation as ordered?

An affirmative answer can be heard from an unlikely corner of contemporary thought—global economics. Herman Daly, a former senior economist for the World Bank, argues that “the art of living is not synonymous with more stuff.” As such, he stands as a prophetic critic of the “more is better” approach applied to so many global and personal economies.

“Growth is an idol of our present system,” says Daly, flatly.

So, what does “always wanting more” have to do with generosity? According to Daly, it’s simple: Our world has a limited set of resources when growth is the singular economic principle driving every economy. Eventually growth ends because everything is used up.

“At some point, growth becomes uneconomic,” Daly asserts.

Instead of always pressing for growth, Daly advocates for a “steady-state economy,” which prioritizes conservation and yes, generosity. “It means cutting back on per capita consumption,” quips Daly. “So that we don’t hog all the resources for trivial consumption.”

Daly applies a very basic logical premise of limited resources to his economics and discovers that sharing must be part of any sustainable equation. This is obvious enough, but given human depravity, it’s predictably not popular. Daly admits to receiving a lot of criticism for his conclusion. “But not that my presuppositions are wrong,” he explains. “It’s more like, ‘I don’t like that; that’s unrealistic.’”

I wish this weren’t true, but logic will never be the key that unlocks global generosity. As the Apostle Paul noted, “People without the Spirit don’t accept the things that come from the Spirit of God. They are foolishness to them, and they cannot understand them.” (1 Cor. 2:14, NIV)

Instead, generosity that is both pervasive and lasting springs from hearts set ablaze by grace. This warmth kindles generous giving which has the power to open the doors on bigger barns and loosen the strings on knotted-up purses.

And there’s no more convincing argument for generosity than when hogging gets dropped in favor of sharing. More words written aren’t needed. Clearer logic isn’t required.

A simple generous act says it all.

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Thank you for this. I've been thinking about this recently, wondering at our propensity for trivial spending rather than contentment with enough (which frees us up for sharing).