“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8
In 1783, Europe was plagued by an outbreak of smallpox. Nearly 80 percent of the children who caught it died. When an outbreak occurred, families waited helplessly to see who among them would come down with the deadly disease with seemingly no way to prevent it. Edward Jenner had a crazy idea as he watched people living in fear of this disease. What if it were possible to prevent it? English folklore told of milkmaids who couldn’t catch smallpox if they already had contracted cowpox at another point. Cowpox was just a weaker version of smallpox carried by cows. Jenner’s idea was to take the fluid from an active cowpox boil and expose people to the fluid. Just like he assumed, everyone who followed Jenner’s treatment seemed untouchable, no matter how severe the outbreak around them. In his medical papers, Jenner invented a new word, vaccine, based on the Latin word for cow, Vacca.
Spiritually, we can suffer from a corrupted understanding of our resources and wealth that has a devastating effect on our spiritual legacy and influence. This causes bouts of arrogance and chronically dislocated hope, and its symptoms aren’t always obvious either, as it seems they sneak up on you and grow without a trace inside of you. Paul said there is a vaccine for this condition that will protect you from the negative side effects of wealth. He used a Latin word also to name his vaccine against getting corrupted by our culture. The word he used is generosity.
The key to a vaccine is to have it prior to a breakout. It is the same with generosity, and it won’t happen unless you make it a priority. Remember, if you wait until you are rich to start being generous, you’ll never start because rich people live in denial that we’re rich. If we are going to experience the “more” that God has for us, then our generosity must start right now. I know what people think when they hear me say that. “If you knew my financial situation,” they explain, “you would not advise me to start being generous because I have important issues to take care of first. I have to get out of debt, the car needs fixing, the kids need braces, and my cell phone bill is killing me.” Generosity isn’t dependent on your finances, it begins where you are, and that’s what it means to make it a priority.
Our society has a value system that says, “money is the key to life, happiness, and safety.” As a follower of Jesus, our motto must be “my hope is not in riches but in Him who richly provides.” This is what the early church understood. Christians had nothing for the first 300 years of our movement. They were stripped of their possessions, persecuted, and had no power or authority. However, they were known for their compassion and generosity. As plagues ripped through the cities, pagan historians noted that the Christians didn’t flee but stayed and demonstrated mercy to the sick. This caused the Christian faith to spread like wildfire throughout the region. What would happen if the church became known for its inexplicable generosity, compassion, mercy, and kindness. It changed the world once, and I bet it can change it again.