Whole Life Generosity :: Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, cjs
There is definitely spiritual power in giving—whether it be money, possessions, or our time.  No one can out-give God. I have always felt the intense comfort and a spiritual ‘release’ when I have stretched myself to give more than what seemed necessary. I’ve done this in many formats, and I have never regretted it. Humbly, I must state that I’ve always been the one who has benefited the most!  My thoughts go to—what if EVERYONE did the same? How much better this world would be!  

From John:
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Scripture Focus: Acts 4.32
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.

Reflection: Whole Life Generosity :: Readers’ Choice
Originally published July 17th, 2019
By John Tillman

Christian generosity is not merely passively giving a portion of our income as if we were being taxed by a government. Taxes push off our responsibility for others to an impersonal agency of government. Like Scrooge, we pay our taxes, pretending that it is our sole obligation. 

If we treat Christian generosity in this manner, we rob it of any spiritual power. No wonder we feel powerless. 

Francis Schaeffer rejects this concept, emphasizing that Christian generosity is not giving partially, but is a matter of sharing one’s whole life, irrevocably:

“In the Old Testament, the whole of life and culture was based upon the relationship of the people of God first to God and then to each other. It was not just a religious life, but the whole culture. It was a total cultural relationship, and through the New Testament no longer sees the people of God as a state, nevertheless there is still an emphasis upon the fact that the whole culture and way of life is involved in the vital diversity of love and communication. There is to be no platonic dichotomy between the “spiritual” and other things of life. Indeed, we read in Acts 4:31, 32: 

‘After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.’

The Bible makes plain here that this is not a communism of law or external pressure. In fact, Peter, speaking to Ananias about his property, stressed: “While it remaineth was it not your own and after it was sold, was it not in thy power?” (Acts 5:4). 

This sharing is not law, but true love and true communication of the whole man to whole man, across the whole spectrum of what humanity is. The same thing happened further abroad. Gentile Christians gave money to Paul to carry to Christian Jews. Why? So that there would be a sharing of material possessions. 

This is ten thousand times removed from the dead, cold giving of most Christians. This is not a cold, impersonal act as a bare duty, but a sharing of the whole man with the whole man. True Christian giving is in love and communication across the whole framework of the interplay between whole men.”

*Excerpt from True Spirituality, by Francis A. Schaeffer.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O Lord, I cry to you for help; in the morning my prayer comes before you. — Psalm 88.14

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 14 (Listen – 9:01) 
Romans 12 (Listen – 2:58)

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Read more about God Shivering on Concrete
Wickedness is evident. But God’s love is also evident…in God’s help, but more so in his presence. Our God is with those who suffer.

Slavery, Racism, and a Lone Christian Voice

Scripture: Romans 12.9-10
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Reflection: Slavery, Racism, and a Lone Christian Voice
By John Tillman

Yesterday we quoted parts of Kimberly Flint-Hamilton’s article, Gregory of Nyssa and the Culture of Oppression about the unique Christian theology that defeats the ideology of white supremacy and racism. Today, I wanted to give some space for a more detailed explanation of Gregory’s theological stance as outlined by Hamilton.

In the late fourth century a lone Christian voice spoke out against the oppressive institution of slavery in a way that none had before. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-394), one of the Cappadocian Fathers, laid out a line of reasoning vilifying the institution as incompatible with Christianity in his fourth homily on Ecclesiastes. It is considered the “first truly ‘anti-slavery’ text of the patristic age.”

Gregory understands Genesis 1:26-27 to be about not just the creation of the first humans, but “the fullness of humankind, comprehended by God’s ‘foresight,’” This fullness of humankind, which Gregory calls pleroma, includes all humans, from the very first to the last, throughout all ages.

God endowed human beings with dominion over all other creatures, but not over other humans, so slavery calls God’s will into question. “Irrational beasts are the only slaves of humankind,” Gregory writes. “but by dividing the human species into two with ‘slavery’ and ‘ownership,’ you have caused it to be enslaved to itself, and to be owner of itself.”19

Since all humans are reflected in pleroma, the beauty of pleroma cannot be revealed by subordinating one portion of humanity to another. Only in universal freedom can the fullness of pleroma unfold, with each individual human being contributing. Slavery, racism, and oppression in general, are completely incompatible with the will of God.

We can learn a great deal from Gregory of Nyssa. All corners of humanity, including men, women, blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and people of every race, ethnicity, class, and nationality are part of pleroma and reflect God’s beauty and perfection.
As difficult as it can be to see past the veil of institutionalized oppression, we have a moral obligation to try.

It takes wisdom and courage to challenge the status quo, to call the dominant culture to task. And it takes hard work to defuse the standard arguments that we have all heard since childhood— “They wouldn’t be poor if they worked hard,” “There wouldn’t be so many of them in prisons if they weren’t guilty,” “It isn’t really their fault that they suffer so much from unemployment and poverty, they just lack the appropriate work ethic.” Fifteen hundred years later, we are still fighting the anti-slavery, and anti-racism, and anti-oppression battles. We may be victorious yet, but it will take all of us to engage the battle.

*Quotes condensed from Kimberly Flint-Hamilton’s article, Gregory of Nyssa and the Culture of Oppression

The Cry of the Church
O God, come to my assistance! O Lord, make haste to help me!

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Samuel 14 (Listen – 9:01)
Romans 12 (Listen – 2:58)