Keeping Christ central
A series from HOPE’s director of spiritual integration
This fall, I had the pleasure of gathering with colleagues and friends from the Christian relief and development community at three different conferences.
I love learning and meeting new people at these events, but this year one observation really blew me away: We typically think of generosity in financial terms, but so many of these leaders are radically generous in sharing their life’s work. It was like they had a bullhorn and were shouting, “Here’s my life’s work—take it and use it however you can!”
For most of the world, innovation is viewed as intellectual property to be fiercely guarded rather than shared. While there is nothing wrong with profiting from hard-earned expertise and diligence, treating one’s knowledge and experience more like Wikipedia than a classified government secret proclaims a different Way … a way of unity, joy, and freedom.
The number of people I know who fit this description goes far beyond Christian organizations and outstrips my space to acknowledge them. So this got me thinking: How can we move away from a posture of protectiveness and choose to open up our lives and work in radically generous ways?
I offer five principles to help us.
- Our highest allegiance must be to God’s Kingdom. We experience freedom when we embrace the reality that our highest allegiance belongs to Christ and His Kingdom. His mission and our calling must supersede any commitment to a local church, employer, organization, or political party.
- Recipients of God’s grace will naturally become more and more generous. Jesus said that those who have been forgiven much love Him more than those who see little need for God’s forgiveness (Luke 7:47). The people I know who live the most generously are focused daily on the wonder of God’s love shown through the Gospel.
- Our time on earth is short. No matter how we look at it, life is short. Those who recognize this have a sense of urgency that drives them to collaborate in order to accomplish as much as possible for God’s glory.
- Growth mindsets bring freedom. Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has pioneered the study of fixed vs. growth mindsets. People with a growth mindset do not see their intelligence or talents as fixed quantities that need to be protected or validated. They see life as a journey of development and discovery and are eager to stretch, improve, and share with others.
- Rewards come later. The most generous people I’ve met seem to understand more deeply than the rest of us that their true rewards are coming later. The Lord has promised that He will reward His people for what they do (Matthew 6:6, 25:21; Luke 6:38), and this frees us from the tyranny of maximizing every earthly benefit we can muster for ourselves.
Jesus said that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), and it is my hope that in every sphere of our lives, we will experience the blessing of sharing more openly. May we become people whose radical open-handedness—with our ideas, our time, our resources—ultimately point people to the God from whom all good gifts come.
It was timely for me to read this post of yours because its been something I’ve been mulling over myself recently as several “work-protective” instances have arisen in my organization.
I was challenged by your comment that those who are generous with their intellectual knowledge or talent reach beyond just Christian organizations. I do resonate with this, as sometimes it seems the Christians can be the stingy ones. Your five points encourage the opposite, as Christian organizations should be leading the way rather than dragging behind in this. It would be one thing if the difference in this area were just from Christian to non-Christian but its not. This post is like a wake-up call that is much needed.
Your first reminder about remembering where our allegiance is supposed to be is simple, straightforward, and yet profound. I think that oftentimes this is the first thing we forget and find competition arising with the very people we claim to be our brothers and sisters and those we are working alongside. Since when do we lay a claim on owning Kingdom work?
Going back to my recent work incidents, I was just recently challenged by a boss when I was asking him advice about sharing a tool we developed with another Christian organization for mutual learning. He was so enthusiastic about this opportunity to share and learn and I was so challenged by that. I think it’s an easy slip to begin thinking that we’ve worked so hard on something that we deserve the exclusive right to it. Because it’s a slow and gradual slide, it’s all the more important to keep these reminders always before us. Thanks for biblically sound and thought provoking post.
Emily, thanks so much for your thoughtful reply.
I have felt the same points of conviction that you mentioned in your reply. Candidly, were it not for the work of the Holy Spirit in me and the example of these Kingdom-minded mentors, I would absolutely tend towards a protective “us against them” mentality. But isn’t it freeing and exciting to embrace a broader and longer view? I find joy in letting go of what comes naturally in favor of something better.
Another lesson I continue to learn is that building friendships across organizations is a simple and powerful way to overcome competitiveness and insularity. The idea of being generous becomes much more tangible when I think of friends who I can share with and lean on when I need help.
Thanks again for continuing the conversation.
Thanks Matthew for thoughtful insights. Many times we tend to forget that at the heart of all we have and ought to do there is Christ at work. Jesus himself said all things are given to those who first seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Mathew 6:33).
I like all principles you presented above, more especially the second principle, which talks about generosity. God’s grace teaches us the value of releasing all we claim to have. He loved us to the point of offering his only son. Constant grip on resources has been a challenge to me because I cling on to things that would bless others if I had just let go. Last week I was talking to a pastor friend who sold his car to a friend who wants to use it for ministry of preaching the gospel in rural villages. He told me he loved the car but wouldn’t want to stand in the way of many blessings his car would have in many people’s lives. What we cling to is usually what God asks us to release to Him.
This reminded me of what Apostle Peter told the council in Jerusalem that he wasn’t worth to stand in God’s way to have uncircumcised gentiles baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:17).
We were created to bless others with resources we have. Our personal stories are part of that resource. I’m glad you were challenged with colleagues’ stories, and I am a benefit from your work. That’s how God plans to bless His people.