This past fall, I started a new position with MB Mission. Around this same time, I was also beginning another semester of university. I was sitting in our school’s commuter lounge one day when I had the opportunity to tell those around me what my work would look like for the year. I shared with them my passion for seeing people stirred by the Holy Spirit to see their “ordinary” lives as a mission field. Shortly after this, I received a message from a friend who was interested in supporting me financially. I was excited about the fact that he wanted to come alongside me in my work for the year. What I did not expect was the very large sum of money that appeared in my account from him! This twenty-some-year-old friend of mine felt the Holy Spirit calling him to give generously. This moment had huge impact on me as the recipient. I was touched by the fact that God was using those around me to impact my life and also transform theirs through the act of giving.
There is something extremely beautiful about the posture of radical generosity that can exist in a community. The early believers experienced the fullness of this in Acts 4. According to the story, the believers meet together to pray for courage against some of the initial oppression they were experiencing. After they pray, their meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. The result of this was that, “All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had.” The Holy Spirit did something in their hearts and minds that led them to want to give generously.
To me, this kind of radical generosity goes beyond just ordinary generosity. I believe that it’s the Holy Spirit that calls us to these sorts of actions as we remain attentive to him. For example, just a while ago, I sold an old table tennis set on Kijiji. I was excited to have the extra cash, and I stored it in my wallet to be deposited into my bank account at a later time. Before I could do so, the Holy Spirit called me to give all the cash to a friend of mine who was heading off to Bible School. Acting in obedience, I did, and she was extremely grateful. Although it wasn’t a large sum of money, that moment brought us closer into community as friends.
Recently, I read a fascinating entry from Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography written in regards to the great spiritual awakenings of the 18th century in the American colonies. Franklin had the opportunity to see one of the great preachers, George Whitfield, speak on a particular occasion. In front of the crowd of thousands, Whitfield spoke about his dream to see an orphanage open up in Georgia. He was looking to raise the funds needed to bring workers and supplies down there to build it. Franklin didn’t fully agree with some of Whitfield’s suggestions and views. First off, Franklin was of a different line of faith and did not fully align with Whitfield’s theology. Second, he thought that it would be better to bring the children up to a place where there was more workers and building supplies to make the project cheaper. However, despite these differences, Franklin writes that he was so moved by Whitfield’s preaching that he decided to empty his pockets that day.
The Holy Spirit can use generosity to overcome barriers that exist between believers. This can open up doors to community where we never thought it was possible. Radical generosity draws us to trust our community and trust God more. When we hold what we steward with open hands and allow the Holy Spirit to do the rest, I think we touch on a beautiful part of the Kingdom of God that is often absent in our North American church culture. Our challenge is to give ourselves more to actively listening to God’s voice as we discern his direction day to day.