On Grudges and Generosity

grudgemainGod has given us a mouth to speak, a heart to feel, and gospel joy to share. He has taken away every excuse for not spreading gospel grace in our words every day to those around us (Ephesians 4:29).

So what corks the flow of grace speech to others?

One answer is grudges. Not always big grudges, like the ones we hold towards those who have wronged us personally. The kinds of grudges that hinder our generosity are typically subtle ones, grudges towards those who seem less significant than us, or grudges towards those who seem more significant than us. Either way, we like to compare ourselves with others. We withhold grace like a miser withholds money. We are natural-born begrudgers.

The Roots of Grudges

Jonathan Edwards pulled out a gospel spade and dug up the roots of grudges in his sermon "The Terms of Prayer." He discovered three reasons why we withhold blessings from others: envy, contempt, and resentment.

Envy. Envy is withholding blessings from others in order to preserve my own joy-stature. It is "a spirit of opposition against another's comparative happiness." We like to be distinguished. We like to be superior to others. We want to stand out. We seek happiness and that often means we want to be happier than others, so we begrudge others, lest they match or exceed us in happiness. Or we can twist our envy in the other direction. Others have more happiness than me already, so what need is there for me to share? Either way, envy chokes off generosity.

Contempt. Contempt is more personal, a withholding of blessings from others because they are too lowly, or too unworthy of the blessings I have to offer them. It is revolt at the thought of my blessing resting in their unworthy hands. Of course, we would never say it that way. This subtle contempt, this looking down on others, chokes off generosity.

Resentment. Resentment is withholding blessings from others because they have wronged me or, merely by some known offense or guilt, are unworthy of my generosity. Once we have been wronged, we may not look for opportunities to return wrongs, but we often stop looking for opportunities to bless. Thus resentment is effective at cutting off generosity.

We are "naturally selfish and pernicious in our benevolence," writes Edwards. We are quick to begrudge.

[Read the rest of the article at Desiring God.]