I wake up this morning to the sound of my daughters screaming about who gets what toy. They have little stockpiles of toys in the living room for an imaginary game, and they both want the same doll to add to their pile.
How dare they! They have so much, and instead of being generous, they insist on more, more, more. I call them into the bedroom for a grand lecture on greed, but as I look into their faces, I realize I am looking into a mirror of my own selfish heart. How am I different from these girls?
I’m that little girl demanding more.
I’m overcome with compassion as I realize the depth of the cultural myth–the deeply spiritual myth–we all adopt. I believe in the poisonous narrative of greed. I believe that if I had more wealth, more productivity, more time, more anything, I would have the good life.
It’s a lie that’s killing us.
“Girls,” I insist with tears in my eyes, “I want you to put something to the test. I want you to practice generosity and see how it feels. You will never be satisfied with stuff. Your heart will only be truly happy when you live generously. Besides, it all belongs to God.”
I even read the scriptures aloud where I learn the wisdom of Proverbs 11: “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” or the truth of 1 Timothy 6 that we are to put “no hope in wealth” but to “hope in God who richly provides all things for our enjoyment.” The writer continues by saying, “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”
I want to be rich in good deeds. I want to have a generous heart that wants to share. There’s a life out there that’s “truly life,” and I fear that my heart’s desire to accumulate more robs me of that true life.
Later in church, the pastor announces his message is on greed (isn’t that funny?), and meanwhile, my daughter works the registration table to greet families and give out name tags. As I watch her serving others, I see that carefree smile–those bright, refreshed eyes–of somebody giving to others.
The day goes on: toys, food, games, and the stuff of childhood. All day, I wonder about the path to happiness.
I ask my daughter when she was happiest today. She replies, “at the registration table.”
Journal: Is it true that when I refresh others, I am refreshed myself?