DeYoung says that, “the mark of generosity is not the size of the gift, or the wealth of the giver, but the readiness to give that one does not have to God” (GLITTERING VICES, 103). Said another way, greed is not about how much we give, but about the how we give. I have two thoughts on this idea.
I remember when I was a child and my mom would give me a dollar to put in the offering plate. I loved it. More than once, I asked for another dollar, because it was so much fun to give her money away. I also remember the year I had to have Gerbaud jeans and Z Cavaricci jeans. They were stupidly expensive, more than $100 a pair, but I had to have them. I had very worry about spending my parents’ money. I was quite prodigal with it.
On the other hand, I remember my second year of seminary when a friend commented about how many shirts of mine had holes in them. I realized that I had not bought ANY new clothes for over a year. Graduate made me poor – seriously. I was lucky to make rent each month; much less to think about spending money on new clothing. Prodigality did not come near my mind. I held on to every penny I could find.
Thought 1: Why was it so easy for me to spend or give away my parents’ money? The answer is obvious. It wasn’t mine. In my sermon yesterday, I spent some time saying that the universe belongs to God. All of creation belongs to God. Think about this for a moment. Your house, your cattle, your car, your family, your job, your computer, all of your books, your bank account, your money market accounts, your CDs (music and banking), everything. Everything belongs to God. Why then are we so stingy with our money? Seriously? Why can’t we give to others with money and belongs to the Lord?
Thought 2: I mentioned in my sermon that the adam was placed in the garden to Avad and Shamar it. Avad is the same root word for servant; shamar is to guard or protect. We are supposed to be the stewards of all of creation. We are not it’s owners. So the opposite of greed is not prodigality (wastefulness) but liberality. Freedom. We are free from the attachment of desire of stuff, but not waste it. We care for creation, knowing that God it belongs to God, we are generous with it, but not wasteful. At least that’s how it supposed to be.
I don’t know. That was point I forgot to mention in my sermon or perhaps I just ran out of time. But it leads me to ask, where is the line between being a steward and being greedy and between being generous and being wasteful?