To Give and Not to Count the Cost

In celebration of our fifth anniversary, we’ve invited our dotMagis bloggers to reflect on the individual lines of St. Ignatius’s Prayer for Generosity.

St. Ignatius's Prayer for Generosity: To give and not to count the cost

Imagine making a reservation at a five-star restaurant. When you show up, the owner comes out and says to you, “Come and dine! But there will be no cost for you!” I think most of us would love receiving a free meal, but we may be suspicious of the owner. Perhaps it’s a ploy to get us to return. But what if we learn that the owner’s generosity is out of genuine goodness and that there are no strings attached?

At the Easter Vigil we heard God’s generous invitation in Isaiah: “You who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (55:1). God offers us a model of hospitality we are called to offer others. As I prepare to get married next month, my fiancée Sarah and I have talked a lot about our desire for a ministry of hospitality. We want not only to invite friends over for a meal or a place to spend the night, but for our home to be a place where people find peace and friendship, without the expectation that they have a favor to return.

The Rule of St. Benedict says that all guests “are to be welcomed as Christ.” The generosity of hospitality is paramount for many monasteries, but it should be for us as well. Joyce Meyer once said that being Christian means generosity without expecting something in return. If someone asks you to help him move you say yes not to save up a favor from that person for the future, but because you’re Christian! You give and keep no ledger of favors given or owed.

Sarah and I have also discussed our commitment to tithe. For us that means 10% of our income goes to church and charity. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s very easy to justify not tithing, to count its cost and strain on the budget. But how can we, as believers, respond affirmatively to God’s invitation to dine without cost if we ourselves do not offer the same generosity to our fellow creatures? God offers a model of generous giving not for some distant reward, but so that God’s love can flow out joyfully to others through our human relationships. You and I are a part of a divine plan of generous hospitality.

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About Andy Otto 54 Articles

Andy Otto credits his relationships for a strong and ever-growing faith in God. After spending nearly three years as a Jesuit, he came to a deep appreciation for the practical application of Ignatian spirituality. He currently lives with his wife in California, where he works as a high school theology teacher. He is the author of God Moments and holds a master’s degree in theology and ministry from Boston College.

6 Comments on To Give and Not to Count the Cost

  1. Henri Nouwen once said humility is going where one does not want to go. When I read and reflect this wonderful prayer, it states that one is giving their commitment to be Christ, to be Christ-like; willing to do whatever is asked of them, to go wherever one is needed. What is really striking to me is that as one goes about doing God’s work, it is sufficient knowing that God knows what one is doing, no need to post it all over the social media outlets. Perhaps others may observe what one is doing, and try to do the same.

  2. I think giving without expectation of a return or reward is the true measure of love. It is the standard by which we will all be judged, since Jesus Himself gave us the example. It is the nature of God’s love for us – He gives freely the sun, the air, the very things essential to life, knowing that many will not return any favor whatsoever. And knowing that those that do, can never return even a small fraction of what He Himself provides to us. And yet, in His infinite generosity, He still gives it.

    One more thought – whenever I hear someone commit to tithing 10%, for whatever reason, it rubs me the wrong way. I instantly envision someone establishing a pre-set condition on how “charitable” they’re willing to be. Pay my 10%, and then, check that one off, we’re done for this year. We don’t live in a legalistic, transactional relationship with God. I’d suggest instead that you commit to listening for, hearing, accepting, and even embracing the Lord’s inspiration regarding charity. It might be less than 10%, it might be more. It might vary from time to time, where you have no charitable contributions for a long period of time, but make a significant one when inspired to do so. I understand the biblical basis for the 10%, but that was Abraham’s situation, and it may or may not be relevant to what Christ wants each and every one of us to do. Don’t let the 10% threshold limit your ability to respond lovingly and compassionately to Christ’s call. After all, He doesn’t ask for 10% of ourselves. He asks for 100%.

  3. I am a big fan of this site, but Jeez…this prayer of St. Ignatius is a little out dated and harsh and legalistic. St. Francis was also an amazing and insightful saint, but near the end of his life he said he regretted not taking better care of his body. In regard to tithing, it’s a matter of choice and it’s legalistic. God loves a cheerful giver….that means a penny or a million dollars. Whatever you can give cheerfully. In today’s economic times, some people cannot give 10 percent. I dunno….this posts are making me itch like poison ivy. What happened to our faith? Is is not longer about abiding in the love of Christ and letting him give us the word on what we are to do and the strength to do it, or is it about following rules no matter what the cost to your health, family, friends, bank account, ect? God calls us to be generous but we don’t have to be rigid about it. The most generous people I know give what they can without second thought and let that be enough. This formulas are going to just a)drive people crazy or b) make people feel guilty that they are never doing enough and must say yes to everything….which we know doesn’t work. No disrespect, but let’s step up the game on these posts!!! Be refreshing and liberating and reflect the fact that it’s about what God does and did for us, not about what we constantly “MUST” do for him.

    • I don’t think the point is give 10% and all is well. The point is give without worrying about what it costs you. 10% is a lot, yes, and it is meant to be. The point isn’t to worry about exactly 10%. It’s about giving what you have. Rules help some people get started. Once you start down the right path, you can apply the rules to your own life.

  4. Mark,

    You’re right we shouldn’t be legalistic about the percentage we choose to tithe. If you watch or listen to Dave Ramsey you’ll know that he’s not so much about the percentage but about the habit of doing it. For me and Sarah, it’s more than a box to check. It’s a way of life. And telling ourselves that no matter what, we will tithe every month, is the first step. It’s part of our budget, just like groceries, and we can be prayerful and creative in how we spend that money: some to the church, some to a charity of our choosing, perhaps some to fund a service trip for the both of us, or even money to a friend in need. In fact, our budget category for tithing is called “AMDG” which means how we spend the money is for the service and glory of God, however that manifests itself.

    Peace,
    Andy

  5. Andy, Thank you for the explanation. I’m not a big fan of Dave Ramsey, as a financial advisor myself, I think some of his stuff is off-base and spiritually shallow. But I think the way you’re going about it is certainly logical. After I hit the “submit” button, I regretted not also commenting on the importance and value of our time, which is often so overlooked when thinking of charity. I know first hand that there are many worthwhile organizations that need our time and expertise more than our money – give a man a fish, teach a man to fish… And I think as pope Francis is so adamantly encouraging us to do, getting out and being with people who suffer, who bear the face of Christ, is the most charitable act we can perform.

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