Are you looking for that perfect holiday gift for the person who has everything? Apparently, you can buy a banana and some duct tape, stick it to a wall, and call it “art.” Then, you can sell the “gift” (not once but three times) for a cool $120,000 per pop. Wait, scrap the gift, let’s call it a new church fundraiser! Debt be gone! See, this blog is full of practical ideas. You’re welcome.
But if banana art isn’t your thing and if you or your favorite person wants to delve into a comprehensive study of stewardship in all its forms, Dr. Betsy Schwarzentraub’s, Growing Generous Souls: Becoming Grace-Filled Stewards is highly recommended. This scholarly work will have you, as one of the descriptions say, “…focusing on being rather than on compulsive doing and consuming…it helps people become more fully grace-filled stewards of all God has provided.”
Thoroughly researched, this book is full of surprises. Little did I imagine that I would be grappling with Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine again in the chapter, “What is a Soul?” In another chapter, “Generosity as a Way of Living,” I learned about the Greek word for grace, charis and three Biblical dimensions of it. There are enough endnotes (the “Gratitude” chapter has 103 of them) to keep one busy with additional study for months. I plan on following up with some of the resources Schwarzentraub has made available in Growing Generous Souls.
While there are many examples of programs and churches where people are practicing generosity (Oregon’s Learning and Serving Together – L.A.S.T gets a shout out) it’s not a traditional “how to” book. This is a book that raises and answers multiple questions:
Why should one care about generosity?
What does the Bible say about generosity?
How is generosity exhibited in relation to earth care or care of self?
How do stages of faith resonate with different generations?
Two chapters particularly ring true during this Advent season – “Scarcity and the Lure of More” and “An Ethic of Enough.” During a time when consumerism is overwhelming nearly everything, Schwarzentraub reminds us, “The regular practice of simplicity can help us find our quiet center, strip away excess baggage and non-essentials, and focus on our relationship with God.” These two chapters alone make for a great study during December.
Although anyone can read it, Growing Generous Souls seems particularly designed for clergy, seminarians, or focused small groups that want to dig deep into why being Biblically-centered and grace-filled stewards is so vitally important. Schwarzentraub has also developed a helpful seven-week study guide along with additional resources that can be found on the Growing Generous Souls website.
So, pass on the banana art this year, and instead give your favorite generosity person a gift that will truly keep on giving. You may not have to pay $120,000 for the book (it’s $21 on Amazon), but by reading it, your investment will undoubtedly grow great dividends. And bonus! It’ll keep its content and shape for years to come.
P.S. One week left! Don’t forget my offer: Email me at InspiringGenerosity@gmail.com your year-end letter and I’ll give you some feedback on how your letter can even be better.