generosity

How You Know Someone Does Not Trust You

Trust is the lifeblood of relationships. This is obvious in personal relationships but there are many types of relationships. When you pass someone on a two way road, there is trust that each will stay in their lane. Without trust in the other then there can be great damage and hurt. Again, I say, trust is the lifeblood of relationships. 

We know when we don't trust another person. You can try to put it into words and sometimes you can articulate why you don't trust someone. Maybe they wronged you in some way and broke trust. Maybe they just look like someone you don't trust (this is sometimes the implicit bias that leads to misjudgments and prejudice). But for many of us, we know when we don't trust another person. 

The question is how do we know someone does not trust you? We can all put on a nice face and be pleasant with one another, so it is easy to miss that someone does not trust you. However, here is one way to discover someone does not trust you: The other person does not give the most generous interpretation of your actions. 

If you find yourself in a conversation and the other person is not giving you the most generous interpretation of your actions and words, then maybe the conversation needs to stop being about the issue but pivot to trust. Talk about how to rebuild trust between yourselves. The conversation about trust is paramount because even if you resolve the specific issue, unless trust is present, there will be another issue in the near future. 

The "thing" is rarely the "thing". More often there is a "Thing" behind the "thing." Many of the conflicts in the world come from a trust vacuum. Broken relationships, broken churches, broken nations and broken systems result a hemoraging of the lifebloood of trust. 

What An Abundance Is Not

As we gather together and ask the Lord's blessing this Thanksgiving Day we might use the word abundance to describe our sense of gratitude. Many will have an abundance of food around the table while others will not have an abundance. We may talk about the abundance of freedom's shared by Americans or, if you are at a table that values deep discussion, you may talk about freedoms denied to people.

Abundance is a fine word to use, but sometimes we stretch the word abundance to embrace more than what it really is. To put it another way, we sometimes think that abundance as unlimited when in fact abundance is not unlimited. 

In a recent TEDRadio Hour one of the speakers shared the example that when we go into the supermarket and see tomatoes for sale everyday of the year, then we begin to believe the abundance of food provided in winter is unlimited. Nature provides an abundance in each season, but the reality is it is not unlimited. You can get all the root veggies you can imagine in winter, but no strawberries. Summer has a load of berries but can't get a pumpkin.

For the most part, nature provides an oxymoron: a limited abundance.

This Thanksgiving may you come to see the limited abundance of nature so that we may give thanks for the deep abundance of creation.

Your Practice is not Limited to You

Someone practice baking and gave me the possibility of experience these divine pies.

Someone practice baking and gave me the possibility of experience these divine pies.

It is unlikely that a person can deliver a brilliant sermon without practice, but practice does not guarantee a brilliant sermon. Practice does not make perfect but practice does make possible. 

In preaching, sports, music entertainment, parenting or any other field we practice, we think about the possibility that practice can offer. We might think about the glory we may gain if we practice and 'nail it' when it comes time to deliver. We think of the personal sanctification we might get if we get the results we worked hard to obtain. However, we may forget that our practice may lead to another's possibility.

Each week, choirs around the church world practice singing their praise songs and hymns. When it comes time to offer those songs in worship, the practice of the choir offers a possibility for the choir to have a level of fulfillment to be sure. However their practice also offers a possibility to those in the congregation: the possibility of being reconnected to the transcendence of God and that which is beyond. 

Your spiritual practices also make it possible that you may encounter the divine, but more often than not, your spiritual practice creates the possibility of others to encounter the divine through you. 

The possibilities of practice do not end with you. 

The eight degrees of charity

Maimonides was a 12th century Jewish teacher who is new to me but old hat for those who know anything about Judaism and philosophy. While he writes on a wide breath of topics, it is some of his writing on charity that stands out to me this time of year. It was brought to my attention on the podcast "Question of the Day" (trailer below).

Here are the eight degrees of charity that Maimonides puts forth. Just a note that each degree is "greater" than the preceding degree.

8. When donations are given grudgingly.

7. When one gives less than he should, but does so cheerfully.

6. When one gives directly to the poor upon being asked.

5. When one gives directly to the poor without being asked.

4. Donations when the recipient is aware of the donor's identity, but the donor still doesn't know the specific identity of the recipient.

3. Donations when the donor is aware to whom the charity is being given, but the recipient is unaware of the source.

2. Giving assistance in such a way that the giver and recipient are unknown to each other. Communal funds, administered by responsible people are also in this category.

1. The highest form of charity is to help sustain a person before they become impoverished by offering a substantial gift in a dignified manner, or by extending a suitable loan, or by helping them find employment or establish themselves in business so as to make it unnecessary for them to become dependent on others.

What is interesting to me is degree number two. I have heard much of my time in church work that many people value giving in a way that they know what the money will be used for and they will not give or not give as much if they do not know what the money will be used for. That is to say that for our time it seems we do not value Maimonides' degree #2 as highly has he did.

Could it be that we are missing something in our persistent insistence in having the final say on where the money we donate goes? Could we it be that we are eroding away social Trust when we push aside the second degree for a "lesser" degree?