Monday October 2, 2023 From Practicing Extravagant Generosity: Daily Readings on the Grace of Giving
As If for the Very First Time “. . . I do want you to experience the blessing that issues from generosity.”
— Philippians 4:15, The MessageThe practice of generosity describes the Christian’s un-selfish willingness to give in order to make a positive difference for the purposes of Christ. Extravagant Generosity describes practices of sharing and giving that exceed all expectations and extend to unexpected measures. It describes lavish sharing, sacrifice, and giving in service to God and neighbor.
Charles Frazier, in his novel of the American Civil War, Cold Mountain, introduces a minor character, a fiddler whose life is changed through an incident that causes him to look at his musical talents in a whole new way.
The fiddler is a drunk, who knows only six songs. His military unit camps near a house where there’s a powerful explosion. A young girl is severely burned and is near death, and her father sends for a fiddler to help ease her way to heaven. The fiddler enters the dark cabin where the young girl suffers in excruciating pain. From her deathbed, she says, “Play me something.” He plays a tune. “Play me another.” The fiddler plays his drinking tunes slowly, thinking it more appropriate to the circumstances. Soon he has exhausted his small repertoire. “Play me another,” she says as she struggles against the pain. “Don’t know no more,” he says. “That’s pitiful,” she says, “what kind of a fiddler are you? Make me up a tune then.” He marvels at such a strange request. But he has a go at it. Soon the girl passes away. Her father thanks the fiddler for lifting her to heaven with his fiddle.
A transformation takes place, and the author writes, “Time and time again during the walk back to camp the fiddler stopped and looked at his fiddle as if for the very first time. He had never before thought of trying to improve his playing, but now it seemed worthwhile to go at every tune. . . .” Thereafter, he never tired of trying to improve his playing, and he went into taverns of every kind to study the sounds and methods of other musicians. “From that day . . . on, music came more and more into his mind. . . . His playing was as easy as a man drawing breath, yet with utter conviction in its centrality to a life worth claiming.”
Imagine the difference he made in the lives of people and the meaning that was added to his own life. That ordinary fiddle and the simple gift of music, when used for higher purposes, became sacred. When the fiddler discovered the gift he had been given, and the power of that gift to influence the world for good, he was changed. His ordinary talent became beautiful, a source of joy and meaning.
We find something similar through the practice of Extravagant Generosity. Giving causes life. Before, our giving may have been arbitrary, perfunctory, haphazard, a little here and there. But when we discover the great difference generosity makes; place it in service to God; and use our resources to relieve suffering, strengthen communities, and restore relationships, then we look at giving entirely differently. We look at our giving, and see it as if for the very first time. We want to improve on our generosity at every turn until it becomes as easy as drawing breath.
Through our generosity, God can do extraordinary things. Through our giving, God changes lives, and in changing them, transforms us.
 Charles Frazier, Cold Mountain (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997), 231–232.
 Frazier, 232, 234