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The Power of Generosity: To Promote Transformation

Notes by Hon. David Kilgour, M.P.
Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont
Sharing Way Sunday, First Baptist Church

Ottawa, ON.
November 13
th, 2005

Congregation and fellow believers in Christ,


It is an honour to be here today as we acknowledge the work of “The Sharing Way” that is doing much to contribute to relief and development work overseas.


I’d like to outline some ways in which the practice of generosity can transform our own lives, as well as make a difference in a broken world. I owe a debt of gratitude here to Dave Toycen, President of World Vision Canada and his book, The Power of Generosity.


How do we define generosity? Webster defines it as “the trait of being willing to give of your money or time.” It is true that when we think about generosity our minds often jump to monetary gifts. In today’s world, money is often the most concrete way that we can effectively express generosity; each one of you no doubt seeks to practice good stewardship of what God has blessed you with. This should not depend, however, on the amount of money a person makes. Consider a Baptist couple I knew who were so generous that Revenue Canada once audited them because they were donating so much of their declared income.


Generosity, however, has a much deeper impact than just on a financial level. It has the power to influence and promote peace and justice.


Generosity and Justice


Consider for a moment the crimes against humanity continuing in Darfur. We have witnessed the appalling killing of the people of ‘African’ Darfurians over more than two years by ‘Arab’ Janjaweed militias, who are clearly directed by the Sudanese government. Probably over 400,000 villagers have already died from unnatural causes. It has aptly been termed “Rwanda in slow motion.” We cannot just stand by and do nothing, but merely sending money does not seem enough.


We must address on a political level the situation that allows such acts to happen and actively pursue effective solutions. The government of Sudan must be pressured much harder by other countries to end its torrents of violence. We as Canadians should be lobbying our own government to act. How come 52 governments, including Canada’s, could send more than 60,000 peacemakers to stop the killing and raping in Bosnia, but not a single one to Darfur to date? Our generosity in this sense can be applied to standing up to injustice.


Some might see generosity as an easy way out of addressing wider challenges of injustice in society. Toycen, refutes this, saying that generosity and justice need to work together to address injustices across the world.  He says “Generosity without justice is a band-aid that offers one-time encouragement. Justice without generosity is a long-term solution that fails to heal the hearts of those who can make a difference.” Our world needs more generosity and more justice. Generosity can often be seen as an important step on the road to justice. We should be advocating for both.


Generosity and Peace


Generosity can promote peace. President Jimmy Carter said, “How can we ever expect to find peace if we keep killing each other’s children?” Violence and revenge have often been the toxins that destroy peace in societies such as Northern Ireland, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Sudan, the Middle East, Congo and many more. The question often becomes who will take the first step towards reconciliation and peace?


Nelson Mandela is someone whose generosity of spirit in taking the first steps towards peace paved the way for reconciliation in South Africa. Mandela thereby set a path of peaceful negotiations in place that led to freedom for the black majority in his country. Mandela: “I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity.” How different our world would be if more people practiced this same generosity in promoting peace.


Toycen tells the story of Deborah, a mother who survived the genocide in Rwanda, although her husband was killed. One evening soldiers came to the door and asked for Innocent, her 19 year old son. They explained they wanted to ask him some questions. Minutes later, however, Deborah heard the gunshots that took her son’s life. Deborah was a woman of faith and continued to practice prayer and meditation despite her questioning of how God could allow such a tragedy.


A few weeks later, three soldiers came to Deborah’s door. Her first thought was that they had come back to kill her. Then she recognized one soldier from the previous visit who took her aside. Expecting to be shot, Deborah was stunned when the soldier asked her to pray for him! They got down on their knees and she began to pray. Afterwards the soldier introduced himself as Charles. Charles admitted he had been the one to kill her son because Innocent had told the authorities of a theft he had been involved in. As time passed, he had felt increasing guilt and regret and asked Deborah, “Would you forgive me? If not, take me to court and I am prepared to be killed for my crime.” Stunned, Deborah considered her response, seeing that it could be part of Rwanda’s step to healing. Finally she told Charles she was prepared to forgive him. Deborah describes how a great burden was lifted from them both, even though it was very difficult.


In the months and years that followed Deborah’s powerful story of generosity was shared and contributed to her wider community in Ruhengiri, Rwanada. She comments on the difference in her town that “it is now a different place. The killings have stopped, the Interhamwe are gone and peace has returned to my beautiful corner of Rwanda.” Deborah’s generosity through forgiveness contributed to bringing about this peace.


Applying Generosity in our own Lives


Another unique aspect of practicing generosity is its power to transform our own lives, even as we seek to impact the lives of others. Proverbs 11:24 from the Message says “The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.” Generosity often requires us to get out of our comfort zone, take risks and through this we can experience great growth.


Let’s consider the generosity of Canadians from all faiths and cultures in responding to the Tsunami crisis at the beginning of this year. In the course of a few days the flood waters killed over 200,000 people and affected the lives of millions more. However Canadians organized fund raisers, traveled to affected areas to help rebuild, donated clothing and resources; one Buddhist temple in British Columbia even sold their temple in order to donate more money to Tsunami victims. This was extended to other parts of the world like India where an impoverished village in Meghalaya, India decided to donate money meant for their own development to the town of Kyndiah that was affected by the Tsunami.


It would seem that such times of crises do compel these rare and generous acts that bring out the best in us. However there is much more that we could and should be doing to respond to the injustices and inequities around us. As Christians, we should be leading the way in responding to God’s call to “seek justice, encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless and plead the case of the widow.” (Isaiah 1:17).


Permit me to close with a few practical ways that we can practice generous lives in addition to donating:


  1.  Cultivate everyday generous habits: Look for chances to be an encourager, take time to thank and encourage someone else for what they are doing. Business writer Michael Zigarelli describes a practice where he would place 5 coins in his pocket at the beginning of the day; each time he gave someone a compliment or praised them he moved one coin over to his other pocket, attempting to have all the coins transferred by the end of the day.


  1. Share what you have: Look for opportunities to share your time, expertise, and finances for the benefit of others. Determine what causes interest you and invest your time volunteering or supporting these financially.



  1. Advocate for justice: Be informed about injustices that are happening around the world or in your own communities. Actively pursue solutions to these by writing to your MP’s and letting them know you expect the government to deal justly and fairly with those in need.


  1. Practice generosity through promoting peace: Offering forgiveness and grace to others can be a powerfully generous step that will lead to reconciliation in your own life, and in your relationships with others.


 Toycen comments, “Generous acts have the unique ability to lift us to a higher level where we are more human, more the person we really want to be.”


Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.”


I challenge you to practice generosity in your financial gifts, as well as in all aspects of your life to promote peace and justice as we work towards creating a better world.




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