Strangely Sweet Generosity

Current events have pushed the act of giving to charities to the forefront of thought for many. You can hardly turn on the tv or radio without hearing “Go to our website and see how you can help.” (Begging the question, how did we ever give before the web? Did we actually have to sit down, write a check, address an envelope, stamp and mail it? Oh the horrors. But I digress.) Americans, in general are a boldly generous people. It’s one of the things that makes this country great-- and always has.

Are we perfect?
Of course not.
But generous?

All this talk of giving and generosity, reminded me that in 2004, a survey was done of all the states to find out which state gave the highest average percentage of their income to charitable institutions such as churches/religious institutions, relief organizations and shelters. I bet you’ll never guess which state topped the list.

If you guessed Mississippi, you were right. Even though Mississippians continually rank in the lowest of the “haves”, as a percentage of income, they consistently give more than any other state to charitable organizations. Mississippi regularly posts the highest percentage of citizens living below the level of poverty. The national average is about 12 per cent. About 22 per cent of Mississippians live in poverty.

The national adjusted gross income is about $46,000 per year. The average adjusted gross income in Mississippi - just under $33,000 per year. Obviously, there are some cost of living differences, but all in all, Mississippians give deeply and generously.

I’m sure I could make plenty of assumptions based on these numbers and the gazillion other statistics that abound on the internet. However, one thing stands out to me. Many Mississippians give when it hurts. Many of us wouldn’t even consider giving generously to charitable causes if we found ourselves inside these numbers because we have a “take care of your own first” mentality.

But remember this:

In Mark 12, Jesus acknowledged to his disciples that poor woman who gave charitably in the midst of her own poverty had given more than the wealthy people who gave out of their surplus.

"And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the multitude were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. And calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, 'Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.'" (Mark 12:41-44)

And of course, there’s the example of David’s heart for giving sacrificially to God in 2 Samuel 24:

“On that day Gad went to David and said to him, "Go up and build an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad. When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground.

Araunah said, "Why has my lord the king come to his servant?" "To buy your threshing floor," David answered, "so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped."

Araunah said to David, "Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king." Araunah also said to him, "May the LORD your God accept you."

But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."

So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. David built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.
(2 Samuel 24)

I grew up in small town Mississippi. I went to college there. My first child was born there. One of the things I remember most about the people there is their exceeding generosity. Rarely could you go into a gas station and not see a collection container (most often a large pickle jar) on the counter collecting change for someone in need of medical treatment. Benefit concerts were and are common. Mississippians may not have much by some standards...but let one of their children get sick or hurt and you will see a community--a large community--come together to support those in need in an amazingly generous way, much like a family.

There are many things I didn't like about Mississippi and I have no plans to ever move back there. It can be a hard place to live once you have lived elsewhere for a while. Mississippi and her people faced difficulties in many areas long before Katrina devaststed the coast. It's depressing to always be on the bottom of those lists...crime, education, income, etc. However, I love the fact that Mississippi finally made the top of a good list--one that gives an indication of the character of her people.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Valeri Barton, a Memory Makers Master, at the Simply Scrapbook and Stamp Convention in Nashville. Valerie and her family live in Flowood, Mississippi, a suburb of Jackson. Valerie has been writing about the recent experiences of her family in her blog. It's a mixture of sad and refreshing. The truth of the situation is sad, but Valerie approaches it with faith and human kindness. If you want a perspective other than what the news is showing, read VB's blog.

May the generosity of Mississippians be returned to them 100 fold in their time of need.

1 comment:

TracieClaiborne said...

Wow, what a great post. That is so true about David. Just one of the many reasons why God loved David so. He had a heart of true worship and honor to God.