At church on Sunday Pastor John talked a little about generosity. He said that he often hears people say that if they had more money they’d be generous and his answer to them is, “No you wouldn’t. Generosity has nothing to do with your money.” He’s right. Generosity has nothing to do with what you can afford; generosity it all about what you make room for.
I remember when I was about 14 or 15 and I reached that age when my parents didn’t make me sit with them in church anymore. All of us “youth” would grab a pew together, usually the second one from the back and there we’d sit reveling in our autonomy. The pews in that church were oldish, solid wood and what I remember most about them is that you could always, almost always, squish one more person in.
There would be times when I’d get to that pew and it would look full – chockablock, hip to hip full – and I’d be crestfallen until someone said those magic words, “I think we can make room.” All the way down at the far end of the pew someone would shift over releasing a tiny little piece of space, half an inch, maybe a little more. The next person would scrunch over, the guy that had his eye on the girl next to him would be extra generous and move all the way over plastering himself to her side in the process. Piece by piece the row would move, each one making a little space until low and behold there was a spot for me. It always felt so good to tuck in beside them, to be included, to know that my being there was worth a little of their comfort.
More often than not, five minutes later another person would come along and somehow the miracle would happen again. There it would be, like the oil and flour in the story, a little more room. I think that’s what generosity looks like.
Generosity is not about the extra, the left over, or surplus. Generosity happens when I say, “I was going to have this, I was planning to spend it on me, but here, I want you to have it instead.” Generosity comes out of our own comfort, our willingness to squish a little to make room. It doesn’t have to be dramatic – most of us are not called to sell our cars and homes and give it all away – but for the person standing on the outside, those tiny inches can really add up.
When I see a Christmas pageant and it gets to the part where Mary and Joseph arrive at the inn it always bothers me that the innkeeper doesn’t even leave to go look properly. “No room in the inn!” he declares from the doorway and I want to say, “Could you check again? It’s cold out here.” I need to remind myself of that. Check again. Look closer. It’s easy to think that what we have isn’t much, not enough to be of value, not enough to go around. But so often God can take our little bit and stretch it out like taffy. He can make it enough.
Generosity doesn’t start in my wallet, although it often ends up there. Generosity starts in my eyes. It’s that moment when I see a need and notice it instead of turning away. It’s in that heartbeat where I ask, “Maybe I could….” It’s in my feet when I make the decision to help, and then it gets into my heart, usually right around the time I’m taking action.
It’s such a simple thing really, making room - a slight adjustment, a butt wiggle and you’re already there. What are you making room for?