What comes first? Thankfulness or generosity?
A.W. Tozer said, “Perhaps it takes a purer faith to praise God for unrealized blessings than for those we once enjoyed or those we enjoy now.”
Start with a definition of thankfulness from a tenth-grade student who described it in a 2004 essay on WriteWork titled, “The Importance of Being Thankful.” The writer tells us “Thankfulness is being able to have a certain degree of appreciation for a certain thing, place, or person. To me, thankfulness means that a person has realized the true value of something and is willing to do something to prove it.”
His last sentence reminds me of many donors I know. Men, women, young people, children, companies, foundations – they recognize the important work taking place at nonprofit organizations.
Our First Decision
Sometimes we are donors because we don’t have the time to volunteer; we lose out on the opportunity to touch and feel the work that matters. But we know it matters, leaving us with a decision. What can we do to prove we appreciate what they are doing? And who exactly are we appreciating?
Often, we respond to an organization’s request for funds as an answer to serve those in need. Our help is needed to get something done, and mostly it is to answer a need.
And then they thank us for helping meet the need.
Our young writer turns thankfulness inside out. When you send your donation check is it because you realize the true value of a thing, place or person? You’re not just responding to their need, but their value.
Are we responding to the value of the person served, or the person serving? Or is it our own value and the desire to share what we have.
How Our Generosity Follows
Mayflower Pilgrim George Winslow, in a 1622 booklet titled “Mourt’s Relation,” said, “And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty.”
In a modern rephrasing we might say it this way: Although we do not always have as much as we have today, it is by God’s goodness that we have so much that we can share with you.
The bounty is plentiful, and we wish to share it. Though it is not always bountiful, we share what we have.
Those are words of generosity that can only be extended if we first value ourselves, and then those around us. And there you have the answer, thankfulness first, then generosity.
To be generous is to give more than expected. Giving comes in many forms – shared food, money, time, wisdom, experience and more.
Generosity starts with thankfulness. Often our thankfulness centers around what we’ve received – material items, family, friends, jobs, and on and on. It’s an endless list. Let’s also be thankful we can give.
If you’re like me, you will be writing donation checks as the year comes to a close. When you sit to write those checks, start by being thankful for the individuals you have an opportunity to help. Be thankful for the individuals who give of their time, their own money, and their wisdom to help. Be thankful for the nonprofit working every day to help and the staff that show up to get the job done.
I am not wise enough or possess the wisdom of an A.W. Tozer to delve into the depths of God’s mysteries. But I do believe this is one of them. There is a profound reason that we each must reach out and touch others to feel truly generous. Others need us, and we possess the need to help. I believe God designed us to be generous, to give.
Remember to share the spirit of thankfulness with others in all the ways that you can. Be thankful there are those who need us to give. Generosity will follow.
What’s your favorite way to share your bounty?
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