Refreshing Generosity

October 31, 2023

Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24-25 NLT

Victor Hugo’s famous story Les Misérables, whether in book, musical, or film form is one of my most beloved tales. The story has very difficult moments, but redemption is the theme all the way through, and redemption is consistently displayed through generosity, making an inspiring and uplifting experience every time.

One particular scene takes place between Jean Valjean, the central character, and a bishop. Valjean struggles to lead a normal life and redeem himself after serving a 19-year-long prison sentence for stealing bread to feed his sister's starving children and attempting a prison escape. Nothing seems to change his circumstances. But Valjean is befriended and given lodging by the bishop. Later he steals the bishop’s candlesticks. The bishop reports the theft; a magistrate is brought in and questions Valjean in the bishop’s presence. As the scene unfolds, Valjean appears headed for jail.

Surprisingly, the bishop slowly retracts his accusation and offers an explanation and excuse for his missing candlesticks. Jean Valjean is stunned. When he and the bishop are alone, he asks, “Why did you do that? You know I am guilty.” The bishop replies, “Life is for giving.” How surprising! How refreshing!

That’s the spirit of generosity God yearns to see in all of His children. John Bunyan, author of the famous Pilgrims Progress, grew up very poor in the middle of England in the early 1600s. He was separated from his family early on by a series of misfortunes and driven into the world. But his hardships also opened a door for him to have a deep relationship with God. It made him a refreshing person. A secret of his life is summed up in one of his most famous quotes, “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

Choosing to be generous is choosing to sacrifice—willingly and gladly. In a world that emphasizes having more and more, grabbing the gusto, having all we think we deserve and have worked hard to obtain. But Jesus teaches us that letting go of our self-centered focus will do more for us than we can ever imagine. We will delight Him and will know the release of worry as He is our Source. We will help others and will leave every environment we enter more refreshed and encouraged than we found it. And we ourselves will be refreshed. In every significant way, we will find ourselves wealthier than we dreamed possible.

  • You will never meet an unhappy generous person. Generosity and unhappiness cannot live in the same heart. How can you do something for someone today who cannot pay you back? Do it and get happy!