When I began working in the area of stewardship and generosity a few years ago, I went on a quest to define the word “generosity,” which is at the heart of discipleship. I wanted to explore, “what does it mean to be generous?” Generosity is one of those words that defies an easy, Webster-dictionary-like definition, but you know it when you see it. Generosity goes way beyond paying the bills or passing the plate. And so I have written lots of articles on generosity…generosity is…love, generosity is…hospitality, generosity is…compassion, and more. In light of the struggles we continue to face in our country around racism, I add, “Generosity is…justice.”
Justice is rooted in the sacred and God-inspired generous truth that every person is a child of God and is created for abundant, grace-filled life. Generosity, then, means working hard to dismantle the institutions, attitudes, and practices that oppress, demean, and choke the God-given life out of people. Rooted in love—the radical, audacious, revolutionary and dangerous love of Jesus—we are called to be generous, and so called to work for justice. Teacher, author, and activist, Dr. Cornel West said, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
Like the psalmist who lamented, “how long, O Lord?”, there is a deep cry erupting across our country—it has been there for hundreds of years and it is emerging in new and demanding ways, calling forth activism and resistance and change. As people of faith, it is our job to heed the cries for justice and make “love public,” in West’s phrasing. We need to examine ourselves, our institutions, our habits, attitudes, and practices and working together, press for change in places of power—in our churches, communities, and country. Generosity never accepts the status quo, but in its very nature, flows out of people to make the love of God real.
And generosity is not silent or passive. It is an action. People of God, together, we can hold each other accountable for the ways we claim faith and make God’s love real in what we say, do, and stand for. I pray today for hope and healing, for the cry to be heard and answered with the abundant, generous spirit of God’s people for justice.
Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA. She is also the Coordinator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.