Learning generosity

April 25, 2012 | Viewpoints | Number 9
Dori Zerbe Cornelsen |

Generosity doesn’t just happen. It can be learned.

ZenithOptimedia projects that advertisers in Canada will spend $11.3 billion in 2012, hoping that consumers will learn to spend money on their products. Rather than just succumbing to this tide, why not commit to engaging with at least one generosity resource this year?

Devotional guides can help explore the spiritual significance of our relationships with God and money. “Generosity: Moving toward life that is truly life” is a four-week guide by Gordon MacDonald. “There’s No ATM in the Wilderness” by various United Church of Canada writers is set up as a series of daily reflections for Lent, but can be used year-round.

Authors use various helpful metaphors to describe the generous life. Christine Roush personally reflects on lifestyle choices in her book Swimming Upstream: Reflections on Consumerism and Culture. Randy Alcorn suggests that giving unlocks the treasure box of joy in his book The Treasure Principle.

With new technology, we can take in events we are not able to attend, such as Walter Brueggemann’s 2012 lectures at Eastern Mennonite University’s School for Leadership Training on podcast. (Visit emu.edu and search for “Sabbath as a means of transition from anxious scarcity to grateful abundance.”) Brueggemann’s call is for Christians to best practise faith by living gratefully, rather than anxiously.

There are resources that describe options for integrating biblical principles with economy. The Sabbath Economics Collaborative uses Sabbath-keeping as a core ethic, weaving this together with current economic investment possibilities (sabbatheconomics.org). Using stories from intentional community life, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove envisions an economy in which the poor find bread, the rich find healing, and both rediscover the other as friends in God’s Economy.

Especially set up for families who want to counteract the crush of advertising culture, Money Sanity Solutions: Linking Money & Meaning by Nathan Dungan offers many conversation starters. Couples who are either starting out or wanting to have a conversation about faith and money in their relationship can use the “First Things First” workbook from the Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC).

Because we can make more significant spiritual changes in solidarity with others, MFC offers the study guide “God, Money and Me.” For small groups desiring to make concrete lifestyle changes in order to increase the potential for generosity, a guide is available from Simple Living for Just Giving at economicdiscipleship.wordpress.com/resources.

For church leaders, J. Clif Christopher has written two provocative books, Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate and Whose Offering Plate Is It? Rather than simply hope for the best in the face of declining donations to churches, Christopher advocates that churches need to be clear about their vision to change the world, not just raise more money.

Check your church library or area church office for what generosity resources are available. The Mennonite Church Canada Resource Centre at

mennonitechurch.ca is a great place to start. MFC staff are eager to assist in the process of learning generosity; our own print resources are free and are available online at MennoFoundation.ca. Let the learning continue!

Dori Zerbe Cornelsen is a stewardship consultant at the Winnipeg office of the Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC). For stewardship education and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest MFC office or visit MennoFoundation.ca.

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