The image of God within us inspires us to be generous.
“I want to give while I’m living, so I can see the good being done,” a retired schoolteacher once said. An active leader in her church, she had finalized plans for a large financial gift. I was an inexperienced pastor who learned a new lesson about generosity that day.
DNA and the Image of God
Generosity is deep within in our DNA. In fact, Creation itself manifests generosity. Biologist Joshua Plotkin, of the University of Pennsylvania, writes that, “It’s not just in humans. Social insects behave this way, and even bacteria and viruses share gene products and behave in ways that can’t be described as anything but generous.”
What scientists attribute to DNA and evolution, we call the Imago Dei, the image of God. A generous, self-giving God formed us from the dust, a God who radiates generosity.
The image of a generous God appears in everyday human interactions. People help strangers when there is no clear gain in doing so. Leaving tips at a restaurant when traveling far from home. Helping a stranded driver on the interstate. Deep down within the human psyche is a primal urge to be generous.
A Generosity Plan
The schoolteacher who wanted to give while she was living gave me a brilliant idea. Soon after, I created a Generosity Plan. My “GP” had three parts. First, determine an amount of money to give away. Then, build a system to automate my generosity. Finally, review my plan quarterly to ensure I meet my charitable goals.
Step One: I determined I would give away a sizable percentage, no matter my income level. Half of that amount goes to my church, the rest divided among each of four charities close to my heart and a pool for random acts of kindness.
Step Two: I automated my giving process. The Billpay function of my bank website helped in this respect. The website allowed me to create recurring gifts to my church and charities of choice. The “random acts” money was more difficult, but I’ve kept a written list of those.
Step Three: Each quarter, I review my business and personal finances, including my charitable gifts. If corrections need to be made, I take action as immediately as I can. Often, the “random acts” category needs improvement.
This plan has served me well. Over the years, the four charities have sometimes been five and six, and I’ve made adjustments. The key for me has been a systematic approach that keeps me accountable to my own desire to be generous. I feel close to God when I pray and worship, of course, but also when I serve and give.
“I want to give while I’m living, so I can see the good being done.”
What a wonderful lesson, what a generous teacher, so close to the heart of God. There’s a lesson for all of us in this simple statement of generosity.