Generosity Is Proof of Wisdom
THERE was a time when generosity was shown even in business relations. That was the time when, for example, a baker gave thirteen rolls when a customer asked for twelve, giving rise to the expression, “a baker’s dozen.” The baker knew that his solvency did not depend upon that extra roll, that it made his customer happy and giving it also made him happy. More likely than not he did not give any thought as to its being good business, even though it was. His generosity was proof of wisdom. How so?
Because life without happiness is burdensome. By showing generosity even in little things we can give both others and ourselves a measure of happiness, making life more enjoyable. We need each other. Did not the Creator say regarding our first parent, “It is not good for the man to continue by himself”? (Gen. 2:18) But the tendency of the times and our inherited selfish bent causes us to ignore others and to act as if our happiness depended wholly upon our ever gaining and holding on to more and more. Just the opposite is true: sharing with others is what brings happiness, making life enjoyable.
It simply has to be that way, for, though present conditions seem to belie it, this universe is a moral one. It was created by a just, loving and wise God who also made its laws. Otherwise Jehovah God himself would not be happy, for all good things come from him, nor can any repay him. As it is, he is the supremely happy one, for, as Jesus said, “there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving,” and God certainly gives most.—Acts 20:35; 1 Tim. 1:11.
Yes, because this universe was created by a God who is love, who is the perfect expression of unselfishness, it is true that selfishness is self-defeating. The more we acquire the more we want and the less we appreciate what we have. With added wealth comes added anxiety, and the more anxieties we have the less likeliness that we will be happy. Happiness is not possible if we are not content. So long as we make our chief concern acquiring material possessions and holding on to them, we betray that we are not content, that we do not have a sufficiency. How can we be happy then? On the other hand, if we act generously we in effect say that there are things of greater value than mere material possessions. Also implicit in generosity is faith and hope in God’s provisions, that He will provide for each day its bread.—Matt. 6:11, 19, 32.
Note, if you will, some pertinent examples recorded in the Scriptures for our benefit. Abraham was one who was generous. When his servants and those of Lot got to quarreling over pasture lands, Abraham, as the leader of the party and the older one, could have arbitrarily taken the best for himself and let Lot take the rest. But no, he was generous. He appreciated that love and friendship meant far more than choice pasture lands and so he said to his nephew: “Please, do not let any quarreling continue between me and you and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we men are brothers. Is not the whole land available to you?”
He let Lot take his pick, and, of course, Lot chose the best pastures and Abraham took the rest. Was Abraham hurt thereby? Not at all. He still had enough for his flocks and kept the friendship and good will of his nephew, which was worth far more than pasture lands, especially in view of his being in unfriendly territory. By an ironic touch, in the end Lot lost all because of the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah, partly occasioned by richness of the land, whereas Abraham retained his possessions to bequeath them to his offspring.—Gen. 13:8, 9; 19:15-25; 25:5, 6.
An incident involving Elijah and the widow of Zarephath is also to the point. Although this widow had only enough for one more meal for herself and her son and then faced death by starvation, she generously complied with Elijah’s request first to serve him with a portion of this last baked meal of hers. So, true to Elijah’s prophecy, her “large jar of flour itself did not get exhausted and the small jar of oil itself did not fail” until the drought, sent by God because of Israel’s unfaithfulness, ended.—1 Ki. 17:8-16.
Generosity may also be said to be proof of wisdom in that almost invariably it is contagious. Thus, regarding our everyday relations, Jesus said: “Practice giving, and people will give to you. They will pour into your laps a fine measure, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing. For with the measure that you are measuring out they will measure out to you in return.” Yes, even as another’s niggardliness tends to make us close-fisted, concerned lest we be short-changed or cheated, so an unselfish, generous example tends to make us generous. Try that principle of Jesus and see how it works!—Luke 6:38.
Should a few extremely selfish ones not respond in kind to our generosity, then what? Are we losers? Not at all, for the principle still holds about the greater happiness of giving.
All the foregoing applies in a special way to religious or spiritual matters. Jehovah God has set the pattern of generosity, and to the extent that we get to know him, understand his purposes and appreciate his attributes, we will find ourselves imitating him by being generous. Does he not make the rain to fall and the sun to shine upon both wicked and good persons? Is he not the Giver of “every good gift and every perfect present”? Surely!—Matt. 5:45; Jas. 1:17.
Dedicated Christians will therefore be generous in the use of their time, means and strength, appreciating that “he that sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he that sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” This principle applies not only to the field ministry but also to congregational meeting attendance and support.—2 Cor. 9:6.
Truly has the wise man written: “There exists the one that is scattering and yet is being increased, also the one that is keeping back from what is right, but it results only in want. The generous soul will itself be made fat, and the one freely watering others will himself also be freely watered.”—Prov. 11:24, 25.