There are many themes that connect Jesus’ teachings. One of the mega-themes is generosity. Generosity is at the heart of every one of Jesus’s teachings. Time and again, he invites us, encourages us, and challenges us to be generous with God, neighbor, and self. And each of his teachings invites us to live a life of heroic and staggering generosity.
Here are just some examples of Jesus’ teaching that contain a bold invitations to live generosity.
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“Whoever has two should share with someone who has none.”
“Sell what you have and give to the poor.”
“Forgive seventy-seven times.”
“Lay down your life for others.”
There is a scene toward the end of Schindler’s List that always make my eyes fill with tears. The war is over, and Oskar Schindler and his wife are fleeing. Having saved so many Polish Jews from certain death, he is now hunted himself. He essentially purchased his workers from corrupt Nazi officers under the guise of needing them to work in his new factory, but in truth he was buying them in order to save their lives.
In the scene, Schindler is walking toward his car surrounded by the eleven hundred grateful Jews. Now that it is over, he comes to the crushing realization that he could have done more, that he could have saved more lives, that he had been selfish and wasted so much money. He says, “I should have sold the car, why did I keep the car? I could have got two more people.” He pulls a gold pin from his jacket and says, “This is gold. I should have sold it. I could have got another person.” Then Itzhak Stern, the Jew who worked with Schindler to bring all this about, grabs hold of Schindler and says, “You did so much. Look around you. Eleven hundred people are alive because of you.”
Schindler was by no means a perfect man, but what he did was heroic, and still he felt he had not done enough, as if he could have and should have done more. Millions around him were doing nothing, but still he knew in his heart that he could have done more.
Today there are fewer than four thousand Jews in Poland. There are more than six thousand descendants of the Jews Schindler saved around the world.
Most of us live far from the heroic generosity of Schindler. He went to extraordinary lengths, risking his own life, to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust. But it would be a shame to come to the end of our lives and realize that we could have done so much more for others.
We cannot do everything, but that doesn’t mean we should do nothing. Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do. And what we can do, all of us, is make small sacrifices, and simplify our lives in some small ways, so that others can discover the truths that led us to where we are today.
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