There is a secret to living generously — but it’s not an easy one to embrace.
The secret lies in understanding the difference between broke and broken.
Being broke means that we don’t have money, or at least not as much as we think we need. Broke can be a relative term, of course, as we often hear of celebrities who made millions and are now “broke” as they continue to live in opulence.
Being broken is different. Yet it is essential to living generously. You might call it the secret to living generously because without it — well, we’re back to that whole camel-through-the-eye-of-the-needle dilemma. Let’s just call it impossible for an unbroken person to truly live generously.
Why Being Broken Is Key
Because the unbroken person is in need of nothing, it’s hard for them to imagine how others could be in a place of such need. Being generous requires first that we truly view ourselves as no better than anyone else. Now, it’s all too easy to nod and check that box because none of us like to admit that we are arrogant, self-centered creatures who can’t see the beams in our own eyes.
But the reality is that each of us has more problems in our own souls than we could possibly solve this side of eternity. And it seems the longer we live, the more we realize that fact. Perhaps that is why we tend to become more generous with age. We’ve finally stopped pretending we were better than those in need and joined in admitting what everyone else already knew about us — we’re broken just as much as the next person.
We are all living in a place of desperate need. And it is only the abundant grace of God that positions any of us to be generous to others.
It’s True. We’re All Broken.
But here’s the good part. Coming to terms with our own brokenness is the key to cultivating a generous heart that moves on behalf of the brokenness of others. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15) Like Christ, we understand what life is like in this broken world. Unlike Christ, we’ve failed just as much as the next guy so we are really without excuse.
When we can acknowledge to ourselves just how broken we are, we more readily empathize with those in need. Like Christ, when we see broken people, we more readily move with compassion to come alongside and give generously of our energy, resources, or even just our time sitting in silence through the pain.
Chuck DeGroat put it like this: “Our own brokenness cultivates the soil in which a truly merciful life can blossom.” [ Tweet this! ] As DeGroat notes in his excellent book Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places, the meek will inherit the earth. But the meek are those who have been broken, no different than a horse that has been broken to make it more fit for service. Far from being a bad thing, our own brokenness makes us more fit for living generously as authentic followers of the One broken for the sins of the world.
Being broken — and knowing it — becomes the secret to truly living generously in this fallen world. Only when we realize how messed up we are can we freely love, give, and grow. Maybe you or your church could use some help to re-imagine generosity. If so, click here.
Have you discovered the secret of being broken? How has it influenced you to live more generously? Leave a comment to share the growth.