Whether we’re newly-baptized or life-long disciples, spiritual directors frequently give the same advice: The paths to joy & contentment are gratitude & generosity. The prophet Isaiah (in ch. 58) says our healing and wholeness are profoundly connected to our efforts at stemming injustice, alleviating poverty and distress, helping others and honoring the sabbath. Science seems to bear that out. A variety of studies by the University of Zurich, University of Pittsburgh and the American Journal of Public Health have found that giving – of financial resources and volunteer time – can positively affect everything from blood pressure to life expectancy.
Maybe this is what one of the contributors to Proverbs meant when he, or she, wrote, “Some give freely, yet grow all the richer. Others withhold what is due, and only suffer want.” (11:24) It’s not necessarily that by donating a pile of money to a homeless shelter or a research hospital, I am going to magically become even wealthier than before. (Though I’ve heard stories of some very rich people who gave it all – or nearly all – away, only to find their business or product so successful that it was like they never parted with their plenitude.) It’s just that God seems to honor generous people who give out of a heart-storehouse of gratitude.
Perhaps St. Paul’s word to the struggling church at Corinth is worth considering: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (1st Cor. 9:6-8).
May God bless you as we prayerfully enter our season of stewardship.