Twice now my heart’s desire has led me to larger bikes, a ’94 Triumph Sprint 900 and a ’02 Sprint 955. But also twice my head’s straight thinking has sent me back to a smaller bikes, and now I ride a Honda 125, which happens to have a smaller engine than a typical lawn mower! Often our decisions depend on what is going on in both our hearts and our heads, and decisions around generosity are no different.
Generosity is to be a character trait of every Christian, expressed in many more ways than just financial, and it is something the Spirit of God develops within us. However, we can tend to stifle, or “quench the Spirit” in many ways including through ungodly desires. These can take three forms:
- Coveting: we want what someone else has.
- Greed: we want more than what other people have.
- Indulgence, or plain desire for a lot: we want more than what we currently have, or we want to keep at least what we currently have.
It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that each of these will make it difficult for us to be generous people. When we want, want, want, we will not be inclined to give, give, give. So what should we do if generosity is to develop within us as a character trait?
In Our Hearts
Shall we just shut off the desire of our hearts? Have you ever met someone with no desire at all? They end up acting like zombies. Like the zombies from the movie World War Z who just sit around when there are no victims, people with no desire just sit around. God did not create us to just sit around! The solution, rather, is found in 1st Timothy 6:6: “there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment” (NRSV). Shutting desire down altogether is not the way forward, but rather trading in our ungodly desire for godly desire. Move away from our own desires which often revolve around stuff, appearance, or status, and instead let our hearts burn for that which the heart of God burns: a just society where people are at peace with themselves, one another, and with God. A society where everyone is taken care of. If “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10 NRSV), then the love of God is the root of all kinds of good. Walking with God and letting the passion of His heart give passion to ours will certainly lead us to develop generous hearts.
In Our Heads
But while our hearts may be enflamed with the desire to do good our heads may yet rule with a nagging voice “don’t be silly, you cannot be generous, you do not have enough for yourself yet.” Let us remember 1st Timothy 6:6, “there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment.” Here is where the contentment part comes in. Where godly desire has to do with the work going on in our hearts, contentment has to do with what is going on in our heads. We think through: “do I really need all this, do I really need more?”
When looking to make motorcycling more affordable I came across so many opinions that I would never be satisfied with a small motorcycle, especially a 125cc. But my head got to thinking – that the vast majority of people in the world, and throughout history have never had the thrill or opportunity of riding any motorcycle, who am I to complain about a wee bike? So down went my engine size, down went my insurance, down went my maintenance costs, up went my gas mileage, and I must say, up went the fun factor. I made the decision to be content which then gave me permission to use my resources elsewhere. When we give contentment some serious thought in our heads, we give our hearts permission to give, and give away.
I love the last scene of Schindler’s List. Oskar Shindler is being thanked by a crowd of Jews for all those whom he had saved through his work program, about eleven hundred people. But instead of accepting their gratitude he is filled with remorse. He looks at his car: “ten more”- if he had sold his car he could have saved ten more. He looks at his pin “two more”- If he had sold his pin he could have saved two more. The movie ends with the hero recognizing his failure: “I wasted so much money.” The movie begins with Schindler looking to make lots of money. His heart strings are pulled by the injustice he sees and so his heart yearns to do good. But by his own admission, he learned contentment late. May we not stand before God at the end of time saying “I could have done so much more good if I had learned to be content with so much less!” Lord may it not be so. Fill our hearts now with godly desire, fill our minds now with wisdom in being content. Amen.