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Radical Generosity

Aaron White

August 24, 2020

The worldwide shut-downs required by Covid-19 has led to a time of deep financial insecurity. Economic giants like Amazon and Walmart are doing fine, but smaller retailers, wage-earners, social enterprises and non-profits are teetering. The charity sector in Canada, for instance, is projected in a worst-case scenario to lose 15.6 billion in revenues and to lay off 194,000 employees. This affects more than just people’s livelihoods, it means that vital non-profit work in vulnerable communities will be forced to shut their doors for good, or at least curtail their services, right at a time when people are going to need assistance the most. The knock-on effects will be massive. 

So what is the Christian approach to this economic scenario? In times of austerity, the temptation for everyone is to close ranks, go small, hoard, protect and insulate. We witnessed this especially at the beginning of the quarantine period when people bought enough toilet paper to last them until 2042.

A friend during this time asked me if my family had hoarded enough good to endure an extended time of scarcity. The response came to my heart very quickly, and I believe it was a word from the Spirit of God: “It is better to starve than to hoard.”

Hear me carefully: I don’t want to starve (I like food), and I especially want my children to have what they need. But I also do not want my children to see their parents succumb to fear, panicky acquisition, or selfish accumulation. This anxious need to hoard things is neither Christ-like, nor wise. St Francis famously told his bishop, who was concerned about how little they had, “'If we had any possessions, we should need weapons and laws to defend them.” Comedian Bill Burr recently joked that when you hoard things you are really only keeping them safe for the person with the biggest guns.

Community simply doesn’t work when we hoard or hold back. St Paul spent a great part of his ministry raising funds from Gentile Churches - who were not themselves wealthy - in order to help the starving Church in Jerusalem. Paul praised the Church in Corinth for their eagerness to help, and reminded them that their giving should be entirely voluntary and even cheerful:


Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor 9:6-9)

This seems far closer to God’s generous heart than any practice of hoarding or withholding. We are not to be ruled by fear, nor to allow concern about our own needs to cause us to forget the needs of our brothers and sisters. 

This is why the absurd generosity seems to be the proper response to fear. When Elijah visits the widow at Zarephath during a time of famine, and asks for bread, she responds that she has “only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” (1 Kings 17:7-16) Asking for food from a woman in this economic position seems irresponsible at best. But the prophet tells her to not be afraid, and to use what she has left to make the bread. The oil and flour will not run out, he promises. 

This was dangerous counsel, and I am aware it still is today as I write it. I certainly don’t believe that hardship and want will never affect God’s people. But I still believe that it is better to be generous - even absurdly generous - than to be fearful and stingy. 

Now is a wonderful time for the Church in Canada to display its faith and its love. If we want people to really believe that we trust God to supply our needs, now is a perfect time to demonstrate it. But not in spending money on ourselves. Now is the time to give money away, to bless those who are vulnerable, to care for our brothers and sisters who are in serious economic uncertainty. Every Church will have members in this condition; every Church will be in or know neighbourhoods with people in this need; and every Church will be aware of ministries that are struggling to make ends meet right now. I know of one ministry - which itself is hurting financially - which has chosen to raise money at this time for another ministry that serves refugees, because it seemed good to them and to the Holy Spirit to do so. (

Let us likewise be cheerful, joyful, faithful, extravagant givers at this time. Let us pay careful attention to the needs to our neighbours and find ways to absurdly bless one another. And let us, by so doing, show the world that we are not afraid.

About the Author:

Aaron White serves as the Resident Theologian at Jacob’s Well. He is the National Director of 24-7 Prayer Canada. He has been a pastor, missioner, justice worker and prayer instigator in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver for the past 16 years, where he lives with his wife and four children in a community home. He is the co-author of “Revolution and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Kingdom of God”; co-creator of The Creative Way Down discipleship resource; and author of the upcoming book “Recovering: From Brokenness and Addiction to Blessedness and Community.”

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