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God can’t be outdone in generosity

Bishop Sam Jacobs urges all to be generous because the Lord is generous to us . . .

Bishop Sam Jacobs

Bishop Sam Jacobs

God has blessed each one of us in ways beyond our comprehension or expectation. The proper response to blessings received is heartfelt gratitude. We know that we can never equalize the many blessings of God because his blessings are constant, continual and overabundant.

Furthermore, our gratitude is limited to what he has already given us. Our mind, our will, our voice, our body and our material goods all came from God. It’s like a person receiving a cake from someone and, in turn, giving that person a slice of the cake in gratitude. What have we received that is not from God?

In a sense, it’s not so much what we give back to God as much as the attitude with which the gift is made. If a child coming home from school plucks a wild flower from a field and brings it home to his mother, the flower will likely be wilted by the time the exchange is made. The mother doesn’t see a wilted flower but the child’s sincere love. The amount is not what the Lord sees but the attitude of the heart. The widow’s mite in the Gospel is a clear example of this.

No matter what we return to God, we can never outdo his generosity. Many years ago, a ministry I was part of had a substantial debt with the diocese. Our team was determined to eliminate the debt as quickly as possible. One night on the way to an event, I heard God challenge me to step out in faith with boldness when I made the love offering appeal. I heard in my heart to ask some people to give $5,000, $1,000 or whatever they could to defray this debt. I could do that.

Then God pushed me further. I felt him saying in my heart to tell the people that if they gave $5,000, they would get it back in a month — and if they didn’t, I would give it back to them. I literally did a double-take when I heard this. Was that God, or was that me? After prayer, I decided that it was God. So I made the appeal as given to me. Three people each gave $5,000, and within the month they received that and more from God. We don’t give to receive. But if we give to God, we will receive more than we gave in different ways besides monetarily.

The Word of God confirms this. Paul writes: “Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: ‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Cor 9: 8-10).

Sometimes we become a little more conservative or guarded in our generosity during difficult economic times. This puts us in a paradoxical position. We want God to help us get through the difficult times, but we hold back in being the good stewards we were in good times. Is it because we lack trust in God to provide for us in dire moments? Instead, we want to see what God will do before we respond in generosity. What if God waited for us to be good stewards even before seeing what he will do for us?

The attitude God is looking for in our hearts is that of the three young men in the Old Testament who refused to worship anything but God alone. In a final threat to dissuade them in their refusal, the king said, “What god can save you from the fiery furnace I am about to throw you into if you do not worship the golden statue?” Their answer was to the point: “We know God can save us. But whether he does or not, we will not worship anyone but God alone.” They were thrown into the furnace but remained unscathed by the fire.

Whether God will provide for us or not, we are called to be faithful to our commitment of gratitude through the stewardship of time, talent and treasure. Our generosity is not only if God blesses us at this moment, but whether he blesses us now or not, he has already blessed us. As a result we cannot be grateful enough.

Who can pay God back for the gift of physical life? For the gift of eternal life? For the forgiveness of our many sins — even those of the future? For his everlasting love? For his manifold blessings? For good health? For the freedoms we enjoy? There is no end to his blessings. There should be no end to our generosity in thanksgiving.

This is really the capstone: “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more” (Lk 12: 48). It is better to err on the side of generosity than on the side of holding back, especially when we will one day have to give an account of our lives.

Bishop Sam Jacobs is Legatus’ international chaplain and the ordinary of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, La.

Legatus welcomes its new international chaplain

Bishop Sam Jacobs, Houma-Thibodaux diocese, is no stranger to Legatus and its mission . . .

Bishop Sam Jacobs

Bishop Sam Jacobs
International Chaplain

Bishop Sam Jacobs is no stranger to the Legatus family. As the founding chaplain of the Houma-Thibodaux Chapter, the bishop was instrumental in developing the South Louisiana chapter. Known for his warmth as well as his energetic preaching, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1964. As a young priest, he served as pastor of several parishes in the dioceses of Lafayette and Lake Charles before being appointed bishop of Alexandria in 1989. He was installed as the third bishop of Houma-Thibodaux in 2003.

Your chapter was chartered in 2005. How has Legatus been a blessing to your diocese?

It’s been a blessing for me to see our Legatus members having such an openness to developing their spiritual lives. When I first called a meeting of potential members, there was a lot of excitement. They’ve really taken the ball and run with it. Our members are growing in their relationship with God and that is impacting their own families and businesses in different ways. It’s exciting to see their faith growing and to see them being a witness of that to others.

What are some of your most memorable Legatus experiences?

We’ve had a number of great speakers. The ones that have hit the mark have touched a lot of people. They’ve helped members get a different perspective, helping them to grow in their faith.

One of the high points was having [Legatus founder] Tom Monaghan here in June. He had promised to come a year ago, but couldn’t come because of a hurricane. It was good to have him here, allowing the members to build their relationship with him as Legatus’ founder.

What do you hope to bring to Legatus as its new international chaplain?

I’ve already been consulted by John Hunt, Legatus’ executive director. So I expect that I’ll be called upon to share my insights in areas of spirituality and the spiritual formation of chapters or chaplains. We’ll see how things develop.

Our country is going through a difficult time economically and spiritually. What is the remedy?

We need conversion. We’re not going to see much change until people have a conversion experience, come to know what sin is, and recognize their need to give their lives over to the Lord. When a person has a conversion experience, God helps them see life differently. When it happens, they have something to root themselves in, something to build upon.

Until we know Jesus as our personal Lord and savior, we make decisions based upon “what’s in it for me?” But when my life is touched by Jesus, I base my life on “what does God want from me?” The focus is no longer me, but God. That’s what’s needed in this country. For many people, religion is irrelevant because they don’t have any experience of God. He is one of many things in their lives. Until God is not one among many, but becomes the center, something else is going to be their god.

How can Legatus be part of the solution?

We need to help people see the centrality of God — not only to know about God, but to know God in a personal way. Our members have done this. They’ve gone on retreats to experience God in a personal way. The more we can lead people into those moments, the more effective we’re going to be.

Tom Monaghan’s life was changed by a spiritual experience. If not for that spiritual experience, he wouldn’t be where he is today. We need to help our members and others come to a spiritual experience that becomes transforming in their lives.