A Short-Lived Generosity

My daughter recently had a birthday. On her birthday morning, there was a singular red balloon stuck in one of the trees in our front yard. It was as if some random person let go of the flying object to join us in her celebration.

Balloons aren’t a recent invention. Their existence traces back hundreds of years, as they were popularized by clowns and court jesters. While originally made out of dried animal intestines and bladders, rubber balloons weren’t invented until 1824. They began to be mass produced until the 1930’s, right around the time that they were first inflated with helium.

While the history of balloons might not be that interesting, their value to young people remains unrivaled. Who hasn’t seen a child accidently let go of a helium balloon and cry as it disappeared into the sky? Maybe it even happened to us when we were younger.

Balloons don’t decide to fly away. They merely float wherever the wind takes them. In fact, that birthday balloon stuck in the tree was gone by the very next day.

One of our motivators to be generous ought to be time, or more specifically, our lack of time. We’re not owed a future in this world. Nothing on earth will last forever. We are but stewards of fading resources. This is why, in Psalm 39:4, the songwriter prays to the Creator,

 “Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is.

This is a prayer of perspective. We’re often incapable of viewing our lives beyond individual moments. As Christians, we should strive to remove ourselves from the immediacy of situations to admit the temporal nature of our lives. Compared to all of human history, the amount of our time on earth is a mere blip, an average number of 29,000 days (for Americans, at least). This is why the brother of Jesus wrote that we are “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

In the next verses of Psalm 39, we’re instructed how we should handle our possessions in light of our fleetingness.

“Everyone is but a breath, even those who seem secure. Everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth without knowing whose it will finally be.” (Psalm 39:5,6)

Reading these verses makes me think of balloons. If you blow up a balloon and let it sit for an extended time, the air will eventually seep out. The balloon won’t stay filled forever.

This is a great metaphor for understanding the stewardship our resources. We tend to stockpile wealth (wanting our balloon to stay filled) because we believe it guarantees our security. But despite our efforts, we can’t keep hold of it forever.

When believers become hoarders, we are essentially transferring our trust from the Lord to the resources themselves. Financial security will not help us evade the brevity of life.

The Lord has blessed us with resources. We can’t take it with us. Thus, we should be generous.

“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you” (Psalm 39:7).