Friday, June 23, 2006

[subversive underground] GENEROSITY

[subversive underground] GENEROSITY
by Keith Giles

In researching the practice of the early church, I came across a startling testimony of the graciousness and radical generosity these first Christians exemplified.

As the early believers cared for the poor, the orphan, the widow, the leper, and the destitute among them, they also cared for the sick and the poor outside of the church as well. Tertullian and other early Church Fathers report that the reputation of the Church extended even to those who were pagan. One contemporary source hostile to the Gospel agreed that "to our shame they bury even our own dead.."

Yet even in this ongoing practice of transformational compassion, I came across something that really made me stop and consider my own internal defintions of compassion and mercy.

The chapter I was reading dealt with the daily gift to the poor administered by the Church and recorded that, in those instances where all the money had been disbursed to the poor and an unexpected need arose, (or if a traveling missionary should arrive and need shelter or food for the week), the pastors would immediately decide to fast for the week in order to provide the need from their own daily sustenance.

This simple and yet immediate act of generosity hits me where I live and breathe. Automatically I ask myself, "Would I ever do such a thing?" Honestly, probably not. I could easily see myself shrugging my shoulders and explaining that we'd already given out all our money to the poor...."Oh well.."

Yet those earliest followers of Jesus seem to have understood something that I do not yet apprehend. There is a joy in giving, especially sacrificially, to those who God brings to us with a need greater than our own.

These were the sort of Christians who would hesitate only to discuss which of them might be given the honor of going without food for the week so that they might be the vessel of God's goodness and blessing to this person in need.

It wasn't about evangelistic strategy or being seeker friendly or promoting their brand of religious expression. It was a simple, transformational response from a people whose hearts God had touched.

My prayer is that, one day very soon, it would be my first and immediate response to give even the food from my plate, and off my cupboard, in order to express the mercy and the grace of God to another human being.

"Conversatio Morem!"
ARTICLE UPDATE: My article "LIGHT VS HEAT" is online now at

ANOTHER ARTICLE: My other article "POVERTY LIGHT" is online now at


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