"A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself...One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered." King Solomon, Proverbs 11: 17, 24-25
Sebastian Junger is author of The Perfect Storm and A Death in Belmont. Long before he became a famous writer, however, he decided to hitchhike his way across the country as an interesting experience. The following story occurred while he was making his way through the aftermath of a blizzard in Gillette, Wyoming:
After two or three hours I saw a man working his way toward me along the on-ramp from town. He wore filthy canvas coveralls and carried a black lunchbox, and as he got closer I could see that his hair was matted in a way that occurs only after months on the skids. I put my hand on the pepper spray in my pocket and turned to face him. "You been out here long?" he asked. I nodded. "Where you headed?" "California." "Warm out there." "Yup." "You got enough food?"
I thought about this. Clearly he didn't have any, and if I admitted that I did, he'd ask for some. That in itself wasn't a problem, but it would mean opening my backpack and revealing all my obviously expensive camping gear. I felt alone and exposed and ripe for pillage, and I just didn't want to do that. Twenty years later I still remember my answer: "I got some cheese."
"You won't make it to California with just a little cheese," he said. "You'll starve." At first I didn't understand. What was he saying, exactly? I kept my hand on the pepper spray.
"Believe me," he said, "I know. Listen, I'm living in a car back in town, and every day I walk out to the mine to see if they need me. Today they don't, so I won't be needing this lunch of mine." I began to sag with understanding. In his world, whatever you have in your bag is all you've got, and he knew "a little cheese" would never get me to California. "I'm fine, really," I said. "I don't need your lunch." He shook his head and opened his box. It was a typical church meal—a bologna sandwich, an apple, and a bag of chips—and I kept protesting, but he wouldn't hear of it. I finally took his lunch and watched him walk back down the on-ramp toward town.
I learned a lot of things in college, I thought, and I learned a lot from the books on my own. I had learned things in Europe and in Mexico and in my hometown of Belmont, Massachusetts, but I had to stand out there on that frozen piece of interstate to learn true generosity from a homeless man.**
Once self-centered Perry experienced the generous grace of Jesus, a remarkable change occurred; I became generous. The longer I have followed Jesus Christ, the more his generosity has seeped into my soul. I look to "water others," to "bring blessing" and to practice kindness regularly. I know this generosity isn't natural, isn't me -- it is Christ in me.
God has woven the law of reciprocity into our universe (what goes around comes around). Living generously because he has been generous to us is the supernatural response to God's wonderful grace; and then we see it come back in various and wonderful ways. Give Jesus free reign in your heart and watch the circle of generosity churn...and churn.