There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. Acts 9:36
“In what terms shall I speak of her distinguished, and noble, and formerly wealthy house; all the riches of which she spent upon the poor? How can I describe the great consideration she showed to all and her far reaching kindness even to those whom she had never seen? What poor man, as he lay dying, was not wrapped in blankets given by her? What bedridden person was not supported with money from her purse? She would seek out such with the greatest diligence throughout the city, and would think it a misfortune were any hungry or sick person to be supported by another’s food. So lavish was her charity that she robbed her children; and, when her relatives remonstrated with her for doing so, she declared that she was leaving to them a better inheritance in the mercy of Christ.”
Jerome of Stridon (347 – 420) in Letter CVIII.5. To Eustochium in The Principal Works of St. Jerome (Grand Rapids: CCEL) 344-345.
Jerome is the fourth of the four doctors of the Western Church that we will explore on the topic of kindness related generosity. He wrote this letter to console Eustochium on the death of her mother, Paula.
While Jerome said many things about Paula, three are noteworthy today as we think about the intersection of kindness and generosity.
Firstly, she exhibited “far reaching kindness.” She would diligently seek out the needy and minister to them. Do we seek out the poor and bedridden, the hungry and sick throughout the city?
Secondly, notice that “charity” is the word that describes her generosity. This means grace-motivated giving. Is our generosity motivated by grace? Often this will appear contradictory to cultural norms.
Thirdly, she was bold and obedient. Her giving appeared to rob “her children” and despite protests from relatives, she did it for a higher purpose. She wanted to leave them a better inheritance.
This final idea is maybe the most powerful.
We succumb, too often, to peer or family pressure and allow social expectations to guide our giving rather than obedience to Christ. The reward for which is “better inheritance in the mercy of Christ.” Do we scorn what other people think and calibrate our giving according to what God thinks?
If you were to die today and such a letter would be written, what would be said about you? Before we can leave a better inheritance we must live a legacy of kindness and generosity to all, rooted in obedience and faithfulness to Christ.