Generosity and prudence

- Fr. Roy Cimagala - The Freeman

Christ gave more praise to a poor widow who put in her two little coins into the temple's treasury than to the wealthy people who gave a lot more. "Those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood." (Lk 21,4)

He is reminding us to be generous, just like this poor widow. But we have to understand what really would constitute genuine generosity. For sure, the gospel episode would tell us that generosity is not so much a matter of how much is given as how it is given.

Is our generosity truly from the heart in love with God and with others? Or is it done simply to do away with an inconvenience, or worse, with some ulterior motives only? We have to examine ourselves more closely to see if we are generous, and if our generosity is genuine.

Nowadays, it's getting difficult to be truly generous. There's so much hypocrisy and deception, a lot of self-interested calculation and shrewdness surrounding the appearances of generosity.

If ever people give something, certain things often spoil those acts. There's the sweet poison of commercialism and materialism, greed, vanity, envy and self-indulgence that contaminate what otherwise are good acts.

We need to get out of that system. We may have to exert a lot of effort to do this because this culture of false generosity seems to be getting stronger every day.

To be sure, to be truly generous does not mean to be extravagant and wasteful, just giving out dole-outs that spoil people more than encouraging them to be more responsible for themselves and others.

We have to make sure that our generosity does not create a culture of mendicancy, entitlements and dependence. This is where prudence has to enter in developing this virtue of generosity.

A prudent generosity gives not only things but his own self without compromising his own welfare such that one becomes a problem to his family or to society. It makes sure that what he gives becomes fruitful and productive, following what Christ said once:

"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded. And from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." (Lk 12,48)

It's a generosity that helps people to be responsible, self-reliant and productive. It knows how to live the spirit of poverty and detachment even if it exerts all effort to generate more money not only for oneself but more for the others, for the common good. It's a generosity that knows how to make business and is very enterprising not so much for the profit as for attaining the capacity to help the others.

A person who is truly generous and prudent is not afraid to become a billionaire and is not corrupted by money. He is aware of the requirements of the common good, giving preferential attention to the poor and needy. He knows how to handle the goods of the earth that are meant for universal destination even as the right to private property is also respected.

His generosity is not based on sheer sentimentalism. It's not sporadic and reactive, but abiding and pro-active. It's not merely theoretical and intentional, but practical and delivered in concrete terms.

A truly generous and prudent person is always mindful and thoughtful of the others. He would try his best to know what others need, and not just wait for these needs to come to his attention. He is always thinking, planning and strategizing so that the requirements of social justice, solidarity and charity are met.

He is not afraid to make sacrifices and to deny himself. He lives the virtue of temperance well. And neither does he flaunt his generosity. His joy is in the giving. He does not expect any earthly reward.

Besides, a truly generous and prudent person knows how to respect the integrity of creation, avoiding anything that can harm the ecology. He is aware that since some unavoidable mistakes can be committed in this area, he is also willing to do reparation.

We have to do everything to develop this culture of prudent generosity in our society. We have to start with the family where the fundamentals of education and formation take place. Parents should be empowered and properly equipped to carry out this duty to their children.

Schools and other institutions should also do their part. Various plans and programs have to be thought out to make this important social virtue a living reality. What a world it would be if we have people who are truly generous and prudent!


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