June 3, 2013

Nurturing Generosity

            The lectionary reading for this coming Sunday features another story from the life of Elijah.  Once again the radical trust of the prophet, and his keen sensitivity to the word of the Lord, makes possible restoration and renewed hope.
            Responding to the command of God, Elijah travels to the region of Sidon where he encounters a widow whose dwindling resources threaten her life and the life of her son.  Elijah requests food and drink from her, which would require her to give him what she saw as the “last meal” for her household.  The last little bit of meal and oil would stave off death, but only temporarily.

            Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid: go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son.”  Then the prophet offers this promise to her: “For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth” (1 Kings 17:13-14).
            In the Spring 2013 issue of Leadership Journal, devoted to funding ministry, Jeff Manion offers this insight:
The chief inhibitor to generosity isn’t greed; it’s fear.  Fear of not having enough.  And the only remedy for fear is trust.  Trust and generosity walk hand in hand, and it is really difficult to pursue the generous life while scared.  God delivers us from fear as we trust our Father to unleash generosity.  When a person begins to tap into generosity, they’re dialing into a core of God’s character.
It is remarkable that the widow of Zarephath overcomes her fear and trusts the prophet.
            I find this narrative of God’s sustaining provision deeply encouraging.  As a seminary president, charged with fund development for the sake of the school’s mission, I regularly ask God to help me replace fear with trust.  Like my predecessors who have served the Office of President for Central, I know that utter reliance upon the generosity of God has sustained our 112 years.
            This past week I received a call from a friend of Central who wants to make a substantial gift to the school while she is yet alive.  Her children have encouraged her to go ahead and give in the ways she wants.  Besides relieving them of the work of making these disbursements after her death, she gets the joy of doing it now!  How grateful I am that generosity flows from her as an expression of a life well lived.  She gives out of trust that there will be enough, by God’s grace.

            Molly T. Marshall

            To learn more about how Central strives to nurture generosity, continue visiting our website.

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