“Caritas” generosity instead of “liberalitas” generosity
- Talk about a time when someone was generous to you with their money, time, or influence. How did that person’s generosity affect you?
As we prepare our hearts for this year's “Be Rich” campaign, we’re exploring some biblical truths behind the concept of generosity. When it comes to defining and understanding generosity, the early church was up against a very different mindset.
The Greek and Roman cultures promoted “liberalitas” = giving to please the recipient with the hopes that the recipient would return the favor (“I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine”). The Roman emperors would actually print this word on their coins, then throw handfuls into the crowds, essentially buying the loyalties of the people.
It is at this point that Jesus comes along and flips this idea upside down. Let’s revisit His words in Luke 6…
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because He is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35-36
Why did Jesus promote this way of living? Because that is exactly what our Heavenly Father has done for us- giving abundantly and expecting nothing in return.
As a result, the early Christians began to promote a paradigm shift in giving: “caritas” (charity) = giving to relieve physical or financial distress without expecting anything in return. This “no-strings-attached” generosity became the hallmark of the early church. They reached out to the those who suffered from plagues, to widows and children, to the poor, and to prisoners.
- How can being generous to others change peoples’ perceptions of Christians and the church?
Some might ask: does our generosity make a difference? Does it do any good? Remember- God didn’t pour out his love on us because it would “work.” Look at us. It still hasn’t completely worked. We’re still a mess!
In the same way, the “Be Rich” campaign isn't about expecting anything in return. It’s about trying in some small way to reflect what God has done for us. So let’s “Be Rich”- let’s do more and give more than ever before!
- Do you tend to think today’s Christians and the church as being generous? Why or why not?
- What can you do this week to show “caritas” generosity toward others?