The next value in our series is another way in which we express our love for God and for people.
“Like Jesus: becoming vulnerable in serving others, and generously reflecting the generosity of God – giving our time, gifts, expertise and resources to serve God and others.”
In a world where success seems to be measured in terms of the amount of power, prestige, popularity and pounds accumulated generosity is counter-intuitive. A generous person is vulnerable to exploitation from those who would take advantage of them, but we are prepared to take that risk because God takes that risk with us. He risks that we will seek to take all that he offers and keep it for ourselves rather than share it with those around us.
Recently there has been a lot of talk about so-called ‘trickle down’ economics. The idea is that if you allow the wealthy to keep enough of their wealth they will spend it in a way that benefits those who are lower down in the pile, and they will spend it in a similar way, until those at the bottom of the heap benefit. In my view it’s a vile and inhumane approach that makes assumptions about the altruism of the wealthy which don’t seem to be mirrored in reality, and those who are poorest should be grateful for whatever finally dribbles into their outstretched hands.
Imagine, for a moment, that Wealthy Wally has £1billion. He spends £1million on a luxury yacht, bought from Happy Harry. Happy Harry is happy with this, and his employees continue to get paid their wages while he pockets the £200,000 profit. At this stage the employees are no better off, but Happy Harry is. From the £200,000 profit, Harry buys a car from Dodgy Dave for £50,000. Dodgy Dave is happy that he has sold a car, and his employees continue to get paid their wages, but are no better off. Dodgy Dave makes £10,000 profit on the car. How much of that £10,000 will reach Poor Pat who is homeless and struggles on Universal Credit? Ahh, they say, the profits are taxed, as are the employees wages, which pays for Universal Credit. True. But when our government is reducing the tax burden on companies (and had planned to reduce it for the wealthiest until they realised how unpopular that would make them) the trickling down is reduced. And Wealthy Wally, Happy Harry and Dodgy Dave all have massively more money and benefit significantly more from Wally’s wealth than Poor Pat. Wealthy Wally and those below him in the pyramid spend on themselves in maintaining their luxurious lifestyles without a thought for those who have nothing. There is no generosity here.
That is a VERY crude model, I admit, but I remain convinced that the ‘trickle-down’ approach to economics is iniquitous and inequitable. It is (from my research online) unproven as a model and requires no altruistic intent or planned provision for the poorest.
Yet that is almost the model that God wants us to employ! What? Surely you aren’t serious?
I am (and don’t call me Shirley).
The significant difference is that it’s not a trickle-down that may benefit those at the bottom of the pile, it’s a deluge down that is aimed at supporting those who have the least. Rather than a little bit dribbling to the bottom, God wants us to reflect the divine generosity we experience. We are to give using the same measure with which we have received, to bless because we are blessed.
This prayer from St Ignatius of Loyola seems to express it rather well:
“Lord, teach me to be generous;
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
To give and not to count the cost;
To fight and not to heed the wounds;
To toil, and not to seek for rest;
To labour, and not to ask for reward –
except to know that I am doing your will.”
That’s what we mean by being generously big-hearted. We do it because we love God and love people, not to serve our own ends and hope that somehow someone might benefit eventually.
Be blessed, be a blessing