You might be asking yourself, “Why should I give,” or “Don’t I give enough already?” Generosity is a virtue not just for those with a special spiritual gifting or an admirable philanthropic passion. It is the very heart of our rebirth. Charity is just what is expected of Christians, not a virtue as popular culture would teach us. True generosity is measured not by how much we give away but by how much we have left, especially when we look at the needs of our neighbors.
The early Christians taught that charity is merely returning what we have stolen. St. Vincent de Paul said that when he gives bread to the beggers, he gets on his knees and asks forgiveness from them.
The early Christians used to write that when they did not have enough food for the hungry people at their door, the entire community would fast until everyone could share a meal together. What an incredible economy of love. The early Christians said that if a child starves while a Christian has extra food, then the Christian is guilty of murder. One of the fathers of the church, Basil the Great, writing in the fourth century, put it this way: “When someone strips a man of his clothes, we call him a thief. And one who might clothe the naked and does not — should not he be given the same name? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry, the coat in your wardrobe belongs to the naked; the shoes you let rot belong to the barefoot; the money in your vaults belongs to the destitute.” Or in the words of Dorothy Day, “If you have two coats, one of them belongs to the poor.” No wonder John the Baptist used to connect redistribution with repentance, as he declared, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none.”
When those who have gone without life’s simple pleasures are given a gift, they are so overjoyed that their instinct is often to share rather than hoard.
“The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away.”
(Taken from the book by Shane Claiborne called, Irresistible Revolution.)
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