Who is Worthy of Our Generosity?
Like many of you, I have been captivated by 56 year-old James Robertson of Detroit, Michigan. Last week his story came to our collective attention. Robertson is a man who usually walked (yes, you read that correctly) twenty-one whopping miles per day back and forth to his factory job. And, get this, he had a perfect work attendance record. Not many of us can say that we are that dedicated.
How can you not love a guy who now has his pick of cars and chooses a Ford Taurus because, “…it’s like me, simple on the outside, strong on the inside”? Someone was inspired by Robertson and started up a GoFundMe campaign for him that, as of a couple of days ago, was up to $350,000 in donations.
But here’s my pause: it’s easy to give money to someone like Mr. Robertson because he is “deserving.” But what about all those people who are far less sympathetic than him? I’m trying to recall when Jesus said, “Give, but only if the person is deserving of your money.” “Give, but only if you feel warm and fuzzy.” In fact, in Jesus there are no “but only ifs” when it comes to generosity. And that’s the struggle. It’s human nature to put things into black and white categories. Good and bad. Deserving and undeserving.
When I worked for a homeless family shelter, we’d get the occasional question about how people became homeless. You could tell these well-meaning potential donors wanted to know whether the parents were “at fault” for their circumstances (drugs, alcohol, prison, etc.) or were they victims of circumstance (lost job, domestic violence, health issues, etc.). It was often the deciding line between whether or not they would give or how much they would give. But real people rarely fit neatly on one side or the other of that line.
Jesus did not withhold what he had to offer people because they didn’t measure up (think of the woman at the well). None of us measure up when measured against Jesus. He loved that woman, in spite of what everyone else thought. He loved her and offered her the opportunity to change. And Jesus expects us to do the same: to show love through our generosity, and thus provide the opportunity for anyone to make a change. No strings attached. It’s a tricky conundrum, I realize that. But it’s that prickly stuff that Jesus does that makes me stop and think about how I should respond to His people, even today.
So, way to go Mr. Robertson. God bless you. I, for one, am tickled that you no longer need to walk twenty-one very long miles to get to work. You serve as an inspiration. But, you also remind me that God’s loving generosity is big and wide…and goes even to those whom we think aren’t deserving. May our kindness and love – and even our generosity – extend to all God’s people.
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012. If someone offered her a car, she'd take the Mercedes...but only if it was a hybrid. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.