Share this story


The power of generosity

How it produces new life

It sometimes helps to go back to the Latin meaning of a word. Generosity is one of those words. In Latin, generosus means “of noble birth, noble, excellent in kind, of superior quality.” It’s related to the verb genero, which means, “to beget, produce, bring to life, generate.”

With those ideas in mind, we can see that generosity is a virtue, a power, which goes far deeper than being kind, charitable or thoughtful. Generosity is something that issues forth from one’s heart, not simply from one’s kindly feelings. We are not talking here about nice feelings; we are talking about something that comes from one’s heart and generates hope, even new life. It is, quite evidently, at the opposite pole from selfishness.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son uses the word “prodigal.” We can associate it with generosity. In the parable, we see that the son was wastefully extravagant and rash in spending his father’s money; money that was supposed to come to him when his father died and the estate was divided among the sons. The son, the younger of two, was in effect saying to his father, “As far as I’m concerned, you’re dead. Give me my inheritance now.” After the son wasted it all away, we find that his father was lavishly generous to his son when the boy returned home. The father was nobly generous in that he gave his love to his son beyond all human measure.

The Dutch painter Rembrandt has masterfully painted the scene is his famous work entitled, The Return of the Prodigal. Note, however, that Rembrandt depicts the boy as if he is returning to the womb, there to be born again. Perhaps the parable should be renamed The Parable of the Prodigal Father, for certainly the son was being regenerated into a new life because of his father’s generous and excelling love.

The question being asked of us is, “Can we be as generous?” Can we give of our hearts without conditions, without limits, and as generously?

One of the main elements of God’s love is that it is always generous and produces new life. By his incarnation, God has impregnated our humanity with his love in the hope that we, with him, can love so as to always and everywhere generate new life with the generosity of our love. It is God’s way of loving that should inspire us to be always as generous in both loving and in forgiving. If we all did that we would have the power to change the world!