“Generosity” by Millard Fuller (1935-2009), Building Material for Life, Vol. 1, 2002, pages 125-129. Fuller was the founder of Habitat for Humanity.
To see a video of Fuller speaking on this topic in an expanded version of this text, go to:
(…continued) One of the most wonderful experiences I’ve had with generosity is when I was the recipient. When our family returned to the States in 1976 after serving three years as missionaries in Africa, I opened a small law office in Americus, Georgia, to provide a living for my family. At the same time, I convened a meeting at Koinonia Farm to organize and launch Habitat for Humanity.
Linda and I didn’t have any money, but we did have four children to care for and educate. We had been sponsored as missionaries in Africa by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The Division of Overseas Ministries (DOM) of that denomination was the specific entity that sent us out. They had a policy of continuing salary support for six months after returning from a three-year assignment. As that six-month period neared an end, I realized that I was still far from having enough income to support our family. My law practice was producing very little and Habitat for Humanity was minuscule in size. I asked the DOM to extend support for an additional six months. They knew our situation and that I was struggling not only to launch a law practice, but to start the new venture of Habitat for Humanity. The generous people of the church granted my request.
As that six-month period came to a close, I realized that I still was not making a living. I knew that I couldn’t go back to the DOM. Instead, I contacted a dear friend, Bill Clarke, the owner of an electrical contracting company in Canton, Ohio. Bill had been involved in and supportive of Koinonia and I knew he felt fondly toward the new venture of Habitat for Humanity. I approached Bill with a most unusual request. I asked him to support my family for a year to enable me to “get on my feet” in the law practice and to firmly establish Habitat for Humanity.
Bill agreed. For a full year, he bought groceries, paid our house payments, bought our clothes, and covered all other expenses of our family. By the end of that year, my law practice was established and Habitat for Humanity was solidly up and running.
More than twenty years later, I spoke at a community-wide prayer breakfast in Canton that was attended by hundreds of people. With Bill Clarke present, I acknowledged his generosity to our family and to the fledgling ministry of Habitat for Humanity. It was a moment of great joy for me to be able to express public appreciation for what my dear brother had done for my family and me and for Habitat. I believe that experience was an equal joy to him. But, to be truthful, the joy, for both of us had been ongoing since the moment of his generosity more than twenty years earlier.
These stories about generosity illustrate the importance and the blessings of a generous heart. It should be said, however, that generosity should not just be for unusual situations and individuals. Generosity should be a habit and it should be directed to our houses of worship, organizations, and causes in which we believe. Groups like Habitat for Humanity are almost solely dependent upon the generosity of people who regularly donate to the work. Churches and other such groups, both religious and secular, are, likewise, dependent on caring and generous people.
My advice is to develop a lifestyle of generosity to individuals and organizations alike. If you do, you’ll be blessed and so will the individuals and organizations who are the recipients of your generosity.
Are you a generous person? To whom and to what do you give? Is your giving restricted only to close friends and family? Should you reassess your giving pattern?
Do you generously and faithfully contribute to your church and to other organizations and causes in which you believe? Make a list of groups that you support with financial contributions. Should the list be expanded or reduced? Are the amounts you are giving about right or should they be adjusted up or down?
Also, are you generous in ways other than monetary? Do you share your time and make yourself available to others for conversation and companionship in a generous way?
Give of yourself and of your resources and you will be even more blessed than those who are the recipients of your generosity.
II Corinthians 9:6-8…11-12 — Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work… You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Acts 20:35 — (Paul said), “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
John 3:16 — For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Almighty God, judge of us all, you have placed in our hands the wealth we call our own. Give us such wisdom by your Spirit that our possessions may not be a curse in our lives, but an instrument for blessing, through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
—Lutheran Book of Worship, 1978, Augsburg Publishing House