“Thank you for the invitation, but I’m sorry I can’t join the choir. I really enjoy singing, but I can’t always make rehearsals. My lupus sometimes flairs up, and I’m wiped out in the evenings.”
Eloise was a wonderful singer. I knew that because I was sitting in front of her in church that morning and heard her lovely voice.
“But Eloise, that doesn’t matter. You can still sing on Sunday when you’re able.”
“I can? I thought I had to be at the rehearsal the week before we sang. That’s always been the rule in other choirs.”
“Well not this one. I’m the director and I make the rules. If on Sunday you know the song and feel comfortable during the warm-up, of course you can sing! And if anyone has a problem with that, send them to me.”
In over twenty-five years of directing our church choir, no one took advantage of my generous attendance offer. The members all wanted the choir to sound its best, so there were no saboteurs. They made sure to attend rehearsals whenever possible and showed up Sunday mornings with enthusiastic joy, not guilt.
We usually think generosity involves only our money and possessions. But there are so many other things we can be generous with, such as our time. Some live by the motto “Time is Money,” and I’ve been known to say my time is worth more than money. It is a precious commodity, and it’s hard to be generous with it. But I know I’m more than grateful when others spend their precious time for my benefit.
We will always be grateful to our B & B host in Italy who spent over three hours helping us track down the backpack we’d left on the train. She and a very helpful ticket agent at the station persisted with explanations and phone calls until they were sure our belongings were located and safely stored. Thankfully, two days later those wayward items were waiting for us at our next destination.
I made a vow to myself that when I reached retirement age I would fill my days with more meaningful activities, opportunities to touch others, reach out to them, serve, love and help. I would be generous with my time, not because I had nothing else to do, but because I wanted to use it for something bigger, something that had a greater purpose.
But that experience also reminded me to take stock of how I was already living my life and interacting with the people the Lord Jesus was bringing to me. As a leader I knew my time had limits. After all there are only so many hours in a day.
It helped when I considered my Lord Jesus and His use of time. His entire ministry encompassed only about three years. Talk about pressure to perform, pressure to stay on task, pressure to complete His mission! Yet he was more than generous with time He spent teaching His disciples. And in the midst of His journeys, He took the time to stop and heal the blind men who cried out to Him even when people urged Him to move on (Matthew 20:29-34). He paused to raise a poor woman’s only son from the dead (Luke 7:11-15). He generously shared his time and a meal with Zacchaeus, a despised tax collector who didn’t even deserve His respect (Luke 19).
And yet, because of His human nature, Our Lord Jesus knew when He couldn’t push beyond His limits. He took the time to rest and renew both physically and spiritually.
As leaders who follow Jesus, we too should know when it’s time to step back from portioning out our time too generously. We can’t be generous to those we lead if we don’t have the stamina to keep up.
But there are so many other things we can be generous with that don’t drain us or our resources: Offering our help; Providing opportunities; Giving support, encouragement, compliments, and affirmations.
These are things we can give generously without holding back. And not one of these costs a penny. Although they do involve a personal commitment, a personal involvement, they don’t really take that much time. And they truly demonstrate we are living generously. In addition, our own spirits are refreshed when we generously encourage others (Proverbs 11:25).
As leaders it is possible to live generously with those in our company, our organization and our family because Our Lord was first so generous to us. It was His love and forgiveness that He poured out to everyone. He was the One who established that generous covenant relationship after that Passover supper so long ago when He said, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). And the writer of Hebrews proclaims just how generous that new, better, superior covenant is. He writes, “Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant” (7:22). He goes on to say, “The covenant of which He is the mediator is superior to the old one: (8:6). It’s the one that sets us free (Hebrews 9:15).
Until that time, Satan thought he was in charge. The rules were on his side. Sin results in death. Period.
But then the generosity of Our Lord Jesus stepped in Satan’s path. He could have rightly proclaimed, “That’s not true. Oh, it was true for Me. That one time. That time that changed everything. The time I died for the world’s sins. But I’m the director now. There are new rules, just as My Father promised long ago through his prophet Jeremiah.” (See Jeremiah 31:31-34)
It was His love, forgiveness, and mercy that Our Lord Jesus was so generous with through the rebirth and renewal poured on us by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-7). It cost Him dearly. It cost Him His very life. But it costs us nothing when we in turn generously extend that same love, forgiveness, and mercy to those around us.
And there are truly benefits to this generosity. The Lord promises we will be blessed… pressed down and overflowing (Luke 6:38). We will “reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6) and we’ll be “enriched in every way” so that we can be “generous on every occasion” (2 Corinthians 9:11).
What greater joy on this earth can we have than to embrace this generous way of life!
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