Meditation on the Generosity of Godby Reverend Obie Wright, Jr.
Decades ago Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick told the following story:
In a rural section of southern California… a Mexican mother died leaving a family of eight children. The oldest girl, not yet seventeen, was a tiny thing and upon her frail shoulders fell the [weight] of caring for the family. The neighbors watched her as, taking up the task with courage, she kept the children clean, well fed, and in school. One day a friend complimented her on her achievement and she replied, “I can’t take credit for something I have to do.” But, “my dear,” said the friend, “you don’t have to. You could get out of it.” The girl paused for a moment and said, “Yes, that’s true. But what about the have to that’s inside of me.”
The observant but misspoken friend did see exemplary devotion to duty, yet failed to grasp how like Christ’s compassion was the girl’s undiscourageable devotion to her siblings.
Renowned Scottish theologian D. M. Baillie, drawing on St. Paul’s teaching, wrote that every good thing we do, every good thing in us, we owe to God’s grace. Dr. Baillie’s inspiration is of a piece with King David’s prayer of thanksgiving for the staggering supply of the topmost construction materials and adornments, for the forthcoming Jerusalem temple, that poured in without arm-twisting. With a fervent heart David prayed, “For all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee” (First Chronicles 29:14b).
The temple built during the reign of David’s son, King Solomon, was a jewel of unsurpassed splendor. Surely David’s prayer is relevant not just to tangible things, but also to godly motivation (the Christ-like have to inside you) and the release of life-enhancing deeds.
To take our thought a step further, we turn now to Second Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9. St. Paul is rejoicing over the outpouring of generosity in the churches of Macedonia. Their spontaneous choice to dig deep into their “extreme poverty” to provide for relief of poor Christians was astounding. Paul and others were taken completely by surprise in their fundraising mission to advance social relief. The Macedonians had not moved against their will; rather, it was from the have to inside of them that they chose to help fund the relief offering by giving more than commonsense said they actually could afford.
The Macedonian churches, collectively, became a model to churches elsewhere, and in every age, whether affluent or desperately poor. But there was the greater model in whose sacrificial steps the saints in Macedonia walked. St. Paul is soaring with wings of noblest gratitude, as he speaks in awe of the royal have to in the heart of the Prince who sat with the least, the lost, and the lonely, in pauper’s rags. “For you know the generous act [grace] of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes, he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (8:9). Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, and may God bless us to remain ever “loyal to the royal” in ourselves.