Each Friday, we will feature a passage from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani, rector of Immanuel Anglican Church in Chicago. The book provides a historical, theological, and practical introduction into the season of Lent.
The last Lenten discipline is almsgiving, a quaint but charming word for “generosity.” In my experience, almsgiving is an adventure. Generosity, as it is taught in Scripture and modeled by Jesus, is relational, not transactional. Although generosity in Lent sometimes involves cutting a check, this is never the heart of it. Biblical generosity is a posture of openness to bless our neighbor with our personal presence, our love, and, in some cases, our resources.
Generosity is perhaps the most complicated of all the Lenten disciplines because it connects us to people, and people are complicated. So are their situations. As we take risks to bless our neighbor in simple, Spirit-led ways, we are not guaranteed a return on investment. We are not in control of the outcome. It might feel like a waste since we are not even solving their problems. We are simply showing up to a relationship we might otherwise ignore and offering what we can to alleviate their suffering.
In books, sermons, and teachings on Lent, fasting seems to get the most attention and generosity the least. Many who practice Lent aren’t even aware that generosity is a historic practice of the season. Generosity works in tandem with prayer and fasting to shape us into Christlikeness. And because of generosity, our fasting and prayer have a relational impact, turning us outward so that we do not overlook Christ in our neighbor. In this way, generosity marks our forty-day journey with a relational, loving quality. By the time Easter rolls around, our connection to God and neighbor is better aligned with God’s vision for a flourishing life.
Taken from The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent by Aaron Damiani (©2017). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.