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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Being Generous

"Whoever shuts his ears to the cry of the poor Will also cry himself and not be heard."

Proverbs 21:13 NKJV

After proposing a collection for the benefit of the Jerusalem church (1 Corinthians 16), the apostle travels to Macedonia, northern Greece, to the communities of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. These are communities sorely tried in tribulation, but despite their extreme poverty they have "irrepressible joy" and overflow in generosity (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). Once again, giving is not a luxury of the rich but a privilege of the poor. Faced with the need of others, the Macedonians ask the apostles "with great insistence for the favor of sharing in the grant intended for the saints." They were well acquainted with the joy of giving, understood as a means of helping the needy, and thus participating in the betterment of others' condition. The grace God has bestowed on them also finds manifestation in their ability to provide for the needs of others. A generosity then that is a reflection of God's grace, quite different from a sense of altruism or philanthropy, but the fruit of Christ's transforming work, totally rooted in love, without which everything becomes useless as a resonant cymbal (1 Corinthians 13).

The theme might seem hostile and even contradictory to the actions of God who provides for the needs of all, according to the prayer of our Father, "Give us this day ...." Yet we have received "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who, being rich, became poor for your sake, so that through His poverty you might become rich" (vv. 9 and 10). He laid down His glory to bring remedy to our condition. The truth, which is complicated to admit, is that in everyone there is a root of selfishness, which in most prevents love for others from getting the upper hand. We therefore always let someone else take care of the poor, sometimes ending up deeming ourselves always in need of receiving. The apostle appeals to each person's will "on account of what one possesses, and not on account of what one does not have." One is not asked to reduce oneself to poverty to make up for the needs of others, but it would be enough for each person to take what he has to make the condition of so many others less uncomfortable. Unfortunately, we are so now to have everything and more, and than we would need we possess at double if not triple the amount. We live in a world of inequality and disparity, and much of what we buy is unused and even wasted.

The writer of Proverbs warns that "he who closes his ear to the cry of the poor will also cry out, and it will not be answered." This reflection is not intended to promote any project of solidarity and solicit liberality from anyone. I believe that today if a person wishes to do good, one only has to look around to discern countless needs, in the ecclesial and non-ecclesial context. Only when one does not know how and where to do, that is when the church and ministers can help in that regard. Then it is necessary to trust those who administer and let them distribute according to need what each one has cheerfully donated, without any qualms. Everyone will be accountable sooner or later anyway. It is astonishing to consider how Moses had to restrain the generosity of the people in collecting the material for the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 36:5-7), while today it is necessary to make constant appeals to see some small gesture. Certainly some people are tarred and thus exhausted by now. However, I remain of the view that as thunder follows lightning, so should giving follow the action of Grace in our lives, without prompting and/or conditioning. Then those who can do good do so without hesitation.


Weekly Bible Reading Plan # 27

July 01, Job 22-24; Acts 11

July 02, Job 25-27; Acts 12

July 03, Job 28-29; Acts 13:1-25

July 04, Job 30-31; Acts 13:26-52

July 05, Job 32-33; Acts 14

July 06, Job 34-35; Acts 15:1-21

July 07, Job 36-37; Acts 15:22-411

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