Welcome to 2021: The Year of Generosity. Our focus this year will be on Funding the Mission. God has a mission, and God’s mission has a church, and God’s church is full of generous people who have abundant gifts and resources; gifts and resources that we are called to share. In the Book of Acts, Jesus reminds us that, “…It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35c). The spiritual practice of generosity is at the heart of following Jesus.
One of my favorite Bible verses related to generosity is recorded in the Sermon on Mount (see the Gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7). The Bible verse is Matthew 6:21, which will serve as our 2021 Year of Generosity memory verse. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). This powerful verse reminds us that the spiritual practice of generosity can transform our hearts and lives, and at the same time, renew our parishes and communities.
One of the best places to begin the practice of generosity is by being generous with ourselves. Too often, we pile loads of pressure and great expectations upon ourselves. We carry burdens that God never intended for us to bear. Let’s set aside the pressure and expectations, as we learn to be gentle and generous with ourselves… and with others.
I like how Martin Luther explains the meaning of the 8th commandment. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. What does this mean? We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead, we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light. Think about how our parishes, communities, and world would be if we extended the practice of generosity to others, by interpreting their words and deeds in the best possible light.
By practicing generosity, we are given the opportunity to partner with God to renew all things. This partnership is at the heart of the Northwestern Ohio Synod’s mission: Sent by the Crucified and Risen Jesus to Make Disciples, Equip Leaders, Strengthen Parishes, and Nurture New Communities for the Renewal of Northwestern Ohio and the World.
As we begin 2021: The Year of Generosity, I invite you to begin with two simple practices.
- Memorize the Year of Generosity Bible Verse “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).
- Consider folks to whom you might extend your gentleness and generosity (and begin with yourself).