Just imagine you are there, sitting on the hillside, listening to Jesus. It’s past mealtime and your stomach starts to rumble, but his words mesmerize you and you don’t want to leave. You notice the disciples talking together and gesturing to the crowd. Then you see a boy approach and offer a small bundle. You watch Jesus open the bundle, offer a prayer and begin to pass out the food. You know it won’t reach all the way to you; it’s just a small bundle after all. What a surprise when your neighbour passes some bread and then some fish! Then more comes. Then still more. You eat and pass some along to the people beside you. Before long, the murmur of the crowd rises again, as they had all eaten their fill. Baskets are passed around to gather the leftovers. You recall the small bundle of food the boy had shared. How is it possible that so many baskets of leftovers had been gathered? Truly a miracle!
I love the story of the loaves and fishes found in John 6:1-14, and the boy in the story fascinates me. He is confident and independent enough to approach the disciples and to offer what he has. Is he old enough to realize that what he has isn’t enough to feed so many? Are his parents anxious about him giving away their meal? I often wonder where he learned to be generous.
I am privileged to speak with many people about their charitable giving, both during their lifetime and through their estate. Most say that they learned to give as children. Some came to Canada after the war and, despite not having any extra, their parents still found something to give to those in need. Others recall growing up in comfort and their parents giving generously to those who had less. Many credit the church for teaching them to live simply and to share generously. Some are a bit surprised and perhaps a little embarrassed that they have so much. Others are delighted that they can share generously with their church and other causes that are important.
Whether you have a lot or a little in this world, it can be a challenge to choose to share beyond your immediate family. Culture tells us that there isn’t enough for everyone and that we must hoard what we have accumulated. Unlike the boy who shared his loaves and fishes, we may not take risks because we’re afraid to lose what little we have. That type of thinking—a scarcity mentality—is distinguished by anxiety and fear. We wonder if we have enough and we’re afraid someone else will take it from us.
Generous people, on the other hand, have a different point of view: An abundance mentality. As Christians, we know we should not put our faith and hope in money and resources. God owns it all and has more than enough to meet our needs.
The single most effective tactic to help foster an abundance mentality is to share what you have. The boy in John’s gospel could have kept his food for himself. Instead, he witnessed a miracle of provision for those in need. Many of us spend much of our lives with a scarcity mentality. It can be challenging to think differently, but making the shift has rich rewards. Indeed, those who think there is enough for all experience more peace and happiness.
At Abundance Canada, we have resources to help start the conversation and to encourage you in your decision to be generous. “Giving Your First Fruits” is a great starting place. “Your Will and Estate Planning Guide” provides practical information about end-of-life gifts. If you’d like to share your questions, dreams or hopes with someone, ask how we can help.
Sherri Grosz is a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada serving generous people in Ontario and provinces to the east. For more information on impulsive generosity, stewardship education, and estate and charitable gift planning, contact your nearest Abundance Canada office or visit abundance.ca.