Some of the most beloved stories in our human storybook are stories of generosity and kindness. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol depicts Ebenezer Scrooge, a classic icon of tightfisted greed who is transformed one Christmas Eve into a generous benefactor. Leo Tolstoy retold an old folktale about a poor Russian cobbler named Martin, who, while expecting a visit from Jesus, ended up giving away his only gifts to several needy visitors who preceded the Lord’s arrival. A favorite Biblical story of generosity is Jesus’ parable of The Good Samaritan. Central to this parable is the contrast between two religious figures who ignored their brother in need while the maligned Samaritan showed great kindness to this stranger.
Why have such stories had such enduring impact on the human imagination? I suspect that in part we recognize in such stories an echo of the generosity of God toward us. We are all partakers of God’s gracious largesse. These stories also awaken in us aspirations for a more generous life that often eludes us. Such stories help embolden us to rise above our fiscal fears and monetary insecurities, to overcome our Scrooge-like tendencies and live as good Samaritans.
In his book Living Lights Shining Stars, M. Norvel Young devotes a chapter to “The Power of Money Used for Good.” He describes money as a tool that can be used either for good or for evil. He advises checking one’s life’s spending direction every morning. He urges cultivating one’s desire to help people financially and curbing one’s appetite for luxuries. In summary, he passionately advocates a lifestyle of practical and proactive generosity:
“Plan your spending so that good has priority. Put aside money to do good things. Make the effort to financially support the good you see around you. Encourage others who are doing good. Make doing good your life’s purpose and goal. Center your life, your thinking and your spending on good. In other words, put God and good first.”
Good advice. May God enlarge our imaginations so that we may better reflect to others his generosity and active goodness toward us.