The Generosity Paradox

The Paradox of Generosity, Dr. Christian SmithI’m still reaping the benefits of an inspiring couple of days with Dr. Christian Smith of Notre Dame University. This week, I share with you the first paragraph of his book, The Paradox of Generosity, as a sort of guest post.

GENEROSITY IS PARADOXICAL. Those who give, receive back in turn. By spending ourselves for others’ well-being, we enhance our own standing. In letting go of some of what we own, we better secure our own lives. By giving ourselves away, we ourselves move toward flourishing. This is not only a philosophical or religious teaching; it is a sociological fact.
The generosity paradox can also be stated in the negative. By grasping onto what we currently have, we lose out on better goods that we might have gained. In holding onto what we possess, we diminish its long-term value to us. By always protecting ourselves against future uncertainties and misfortunes, we are affected in ways that make us more anxious about uncertainties and vulnerable to future misfortunes. In short, by failing to care for others, we do not properly take care of ourselves. It is no coincidence that the word “miser” is etymologically related to the word “miserable.”

Pastors, take note. Leading your people into greater generosity is pastoral care and discipleship.