The dictionary’s definition of generosity is “giving freely without expecting payment in return.” But several years ago, a stranger’s kindness taught me something different. That instead of expecting nothing, we should be expecting everything when we choose to give generously.
Lavish generosity springs from an expectant heart.
The two of us stood on the corner between our houses where we had stopped to say hello. I was the new neighbor with moving boxes littering my garage. She was the friendly mom who waved when we dropped off our kids at school. When she asked politely, “Are you getting all settled in? How are you doing?” my tears surprised us both. This move had been a catalyst to a crisis in my marriage, and with 1300 miles separating me from every person I ever knew, I had no one to ask for help.
At that moment, Shannon didn’t hesitate. Instead of turning away from my pain, she leaned in with compassion and kindness. In the days and weeks that followed, she spent hours with me listening, praying, and showing me God’s way out of the mess I was in. She took me to the feet of Jesus and encouraged me to begin my relationship with Him.
Shannon was able to give generously because she had great expectations.
Shannon expected something big. Not from me, that’s for sure. I was a train wreck! And not from herself – she made it clear that she did NOT know what to do. But she threw open her arms and embraced me with a generosity that came from her complete confidence that Christ would be able to help. She fully expected HIM to show up. And He did.
Choosing generosity doesn’t rely on what we can supply.
Often when faced with the needs of others, my go-to response starts with, “I don’t think I have enough…”
Enough time. Enough compassion. Enough kindness. Enough money. Enough of whatever I think I’m going to need to bring to the situation.
Thankfully, I can set my expectations higher than that! I can choose to be generous because of what God says I can expect from Him. I can afford the luxury of living with my heart and hands wide open because I can take God at His word and believe his promises are true.
The generosity that flows from our belief that God will show up every time explodes the notion that there is not enough to go around. Not enough mercy. Not enough compassion. Not enough forgiveness. When in reality, each of these things only grows when given away. To withhold them is to believe the lie that there is a limit to LOVE.
We can expect to be changed.
I can trace the beginning of my walk with Christ directly back to that moment in my driveway. My life was changed by the kindness of a stranger who became a dear friend. And the friendship Shannon and I share will last a lifetime because of her generosity that day.
Of course, that’s not always how it happens. Sometimes, we don’t know the outcome of our generosity. But that’s ok. Because God’s word says there’s something more we can expect: “…your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.” (2 Cor. 9:11)
Something changes inside of us when we choose to trust God’s promises and give freely. When we experience God providing everything we need – the time, resources, energy, and compassion necessary in the moment – we realize that by some outrageous design, He has chosen us to do something on His behalf. And our hearts are flooded with thanksgiving and praise, whether or not we know the outcome of our kindness.
Let’s set our expectations high.
We have the power to reach beyond ourselves and touch those around us with a generosity that defies the world’s rule of “me and mine.” But it might require us to change the way we think about giving. Instead of expecting nothing when we give, we can expect everything. Not from others or from ourselves, but from our God who shows up every time to supply everything we need. Because His promises are true, we are free to give generously on every occasion with expectant hearts filled with thanksgiving and joy.
What are your expectations when you have an opportunity to be generous?
What might change in your life if you began practicing generosity in a new or unexpected way?