James Hamilton: Docility, Conscious Penury, and Submission

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My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:17

“Humility, what is it? It is a gracious gift of the Holy Ghost. It is the same disposition which the Psalmist called a “broken heart” and that consciousness of need which Jesus had in view when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” So far as it has respect to God, it is that docility which is willing to learn what God teaches; that conscious penury, which is willing to accept whatever God proffers; that submission which is willing to do what God desires, and to endure whatever God deems needful.”

James Hamilton in Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, compiled by Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert (New York: Wilbur B. Ketcham, 1895) 331.

For the past month or so, we have been exploring themes related to generosity in the minds of key voices around the enlightenment period. Their brilliant minds bring life to basic truths.

Today’s lesson links to the heart or spirit we must have in order to grasp the things of God and share them generously with others. On our part, it requires docility, conscious penury, and submission.

In plain terms, if our lives are to exhibit Christian generosity, we must take the posture of a humble learner, then that of a grateful receiver, and then with complete submission, we must do what God desires.

Our human tendency is to gain knowledge, to amass resources, and do what we desire. Modern philanthropy says to give to the things that bring you the most joy. Instead, let us give to what thrills the heart of God.

What path will you take?¬†Jesus promised the kingdom of heaven to the poor in spirit. It’s a paradox. The secret to grasping this lies in docility, conscious penury, and submission.

And you don’t discover that this path actually helps you grow in generosity until you take it.