Now while Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of costly aromatic oil from pure nard. After breaking open the jar, she poured it on his head. But some who were present indignantly said to one another, “Why this waste of expensive ointment? It could have been sold for more than three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor!” So they spoke angrily to her.
–Mark 14:3-5 NET
When our city was struck by the derecho two months ago, one huge part of our ash tree broke off during the storm. That portion, with its thick trunk and its many branches, stretched at least 40 feet from behind our garage, over the (now crushed) chain-link fence, and into our neighbor’s yard. It landed with the top of the tree in their patio, pushing against the back of their house.
According to our insurance company, our responsibility ended at our property line. But there was no safe way to remove the massive trunk from our side without first dealing with the portion on their side. And besides, many of us were out helping our neighbors deal with the aftermath of the storm. It seemed only logical and right for us to remove our own tree from our neighbor’s backyard. But apparently, that viewpoint was not so obvious. One person sharply questioned why we were spending hours working on someone else’s problem.
This story illustrates an important truth: Generosity can be misunderstood. Motives can be questioned. The wisdom of your actions can be doubted. The response to your generosity can quickly, and unexpectedly, become emotionally charged as it was in Mark 14:3-5.
So what should you do when this happens? While it won’t remove the hurt, the place to start is to remember that ultimately you are being generous for an audience of one—namely, God. It is His opinion that counts, not those around you. Even the recipient of your generosity is not the final authority, as it is God who knows the motives of your heart.
When your generosity is questioned, as it inevitably will be at some point, don’t be discouraged. Instead, look into the eyes of Jesus and trust His Spirit to reveal anything you need to learn. Perhaps there was a better way to do something, but often there are many equally valid ways to do it. Our goal is to bring our gifts for the pleasure of our loving and kind Heavenly Father, not the approval of people around us (Galatians 1:10).
ACTION: When has your generosity been misunderstood? How have you handled it? Or when have you misunderstood the generosity of others? What did you do to make it right?