What Does Generosity Mean?

What Does Generosity Mean?

by Claire Berger

A food critic recently reported on a tale of two restaurants. One restaurant, two different nights, one week apart. It was a restaurant atop a hotel—a hospitality double feature. After her first evening, she wrote the type of review restaurant owners have framed by the entrance: delightful adjectives about the marble in the lobby, the view with binoculars, the farm-to-table menu. Restaurants want, “it hit the mark,” and that was her reaction after the first visit.  If only she hadn’t gone back the next week and left saying, “give me Shake Shack on solid ground.” 

Hospitality industry conversations show us what we want when we want to receive generosity. Our food critic felt welcomed on the first night because two people in the lobby gave over the top greetings and she sped up the sixty-six floors to her reservation, her view, her delightful dinner. The second night she had a bartender not allow her to pull up an extra seat for a friend, a snarky host, and a general “ripple of revulsion.” Before the food can taste good, before the view can be appreciated, before we can enjoy a night’s rest, we want to be cared for and valued. 

Now, being the person who shows generosity and hospitality can be difficult because humans do not, like the restaurant, “hit the mark.” It generally requires sacrifice to make someone else feel loved, valued, accepted; humans generally prefer to focus on me, myself, and I.

And yet Christ did not tell us he would rather eat among the cheaper, more accessible version of ourselves. He left his home in the heavens to make his home with us. The funny thing is, during the height of his ministry he was homeless. A homeless man became the picture of generosity—he gave all of himself so we can be welcome at his table. He does not say, “I’m sorry, you are seventy-fifth on the waiting list,” or "no you may not pull up a stool for your friend.” He says, “come and eat.”

Because Christ first welcomed us, we can now love our neighbors as ourselves. In Jesus we have plenty of square footage to open our homes to others. Surprisingly, he gives us grace in the giving. Invite someone into your home this Lenten season; join us on Sunday to hear more about generosity.