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Paradox Of Generosity

Generosity is a widely misunderstood. In many ways, people think of generosity in terms of money. For example, in modern churches, there is a new movement where tithing and offerings are branded as ‘generosity moments’. But, generosity is deeper than currency or material possessions. Being generous can take many shapes and forms. Generosity is when a person lends a listening ear to someone needing to be heard. Generosity is at play when an individual chooses to use his/her gifts to serve the whole community.

Generosity is alive when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give a drink to the thirsty, visit the prisoner, and invite the stranger into our home. The ultimate act of generosity took place on a cross; Jesus laying his perfect life, rendering it all, for the sake of humanity. And yet, in the midst of generosity, when give all we have, we find abundance. The paradox of receiving through giving is beautiful and complex all at once. Second Corinthians, chapter nine, verses six through fifteen, explore this paradox.

In this biblical passage, generosity is explained through a parable of a farmer who plants seeds generously and in return receives a generous crop. Proverbs chapter eleven, verse twenty-four, says: “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty”. Messages about the paradox of generosity are found all throughout the Bible, which bear witness to the importance of generosity in our current lives. As a team, we found generosity, and the paradox of receiving through giving, to be one of the most important aspects of our individual lives.

As leaders, first generation college students, and Hispanic women, we have learned to embody generosity in our communities, in our families, and in our studies. Yet, this paradox has also brought to surface the many areas where can and must render more of our time, our intentionality, our talents, and our abilities. We also think that generosity has been forgotten by many, especially in the times we are living today, nationally and globally. Therefore, we believe that focusing on generosity and how it transforms communities and individuals is crucial.

Parker Palmer says “The true law of life is that we generate more of whatever seems scarce by trusting its supply and passing it around. Authentic abundance does not lie in secured stockpiles of food or cash or influence or affection but in belonging to a community where we can give those goods to others who need them – and receive them from others when we are in need. ” There is an abundance of food and money to be able to provide for all people in planet. There is no need for anyone to be homeless or go hungry if we are generous with what we have.

All humans should seek to live a life as Jesus did. He was generous not only with what he physically had but with his heart. Jesus was serving his people emotionally, spiritually and giving people hope to live without seeking anything in return only acceptance of Christ. If everyone lived a life as God intended people would be living a life of content instead of seeking material needs to fill a void that God already planted a seed for us to flourish in his name.

The film Shindler’s List as an example of our paradox receiving through giving and as an example of generosity. In the beginning of the movie Shindler can be seen as a selfish character who is only concerned of becoming a successful man. He even joined the Nazi Party to benefit from the War. However, Shindler’s heart open to a reality that surrounded him. He became aware of the injustices towards the Jews. At one point Shindler’s concerned turned from being a successful man to doing everything in his hands to save the lives of innocent Jews.

Shindler’s generosity came in a beautiful shape. He demonstrated generosity through his time and effort to use everything in his power to end a horrific and suffering life for many Jews. Money is not ‘the way’ to show generosity, but in Shindler’s case it was necessary. With his power and money, he was able to save hundreds of lives. Through Shindler’s actions we can see the paradox of generosity being played. During Shindler’s realization of the cruelty suffering that the Jews were living on he had already received something –a purpose in life.

This purpose had more meaning in him than his goal of becoming a successful wealthy person. After saving hundreds of lives we could say that Shindler found peace within himself and a meaning in life. Shindler’s example of generosity challenged us to think differently. There are many issues that surrounds us and that we know something needs to be done. But, sometimes we can feel like there is nothing we can do. However, our presentation and the examples we used challenged us to start being generous from the beginning – with our family.

From our experience with Oskar Shindler and his character we are also challenged to speak up against issues that we know need to be talked about. We might not be able stop it, but we know that we should not remain silence to an issue that is causing so much suffering to other people. Giving our time to advocate for issues that are causing suffering to others is caring for one another. We can make a change, it might not be a big change, but it will be start. We choose a symbolic activity because we wanted the class to think about where in their life they can be more generous and how they can achieve this goal.

Generosity does not mean money, it can be time, talents, or anything you have to offer such as words of kindness. We also brought to class a pot, soil, and seeds for the class. The seed represents what you need to give more of in your life and the soil where you want to be more generous. The time, effort and the fruits of the labor can represent how eventually through giving you will receive something in return. What a person can receive back can be physical, emotional, or spiritual where you are grateful.

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