What is flourishing?
When God made the world, he placed people in it and said that what he had made was “very good.” In the beginning, the very first humans had a relationship with God in Eden and experienced the truest kind of flourishing. They lived active lives full of everything good and lacking nothing.
Humanity is on a quest for human flourishing. We chase happiness. Visions of the good life fill our screens and stick in our minds. And theologians, philosophers and behavioral scientists increasingly agree: all that we do, if we look closely, turns out to be motivated by a deep desire for life and flourishing. We crave Shalom–that total peace and harmony.
This is Owen. He works with Food for the Hungry in the Philippines! For years he’s been working in a region far from his family, but he says he is thankful for the restoration of his relationship with them this year.
At Food for the Hungry (FH), we believe that flourishing comes from relationship. Our relationship to God matters first, and from that flows our ability to engage with other people and the world around us. Our connection to God lets us experience life the way we were meant to. Everything else—health, wealth, stuff—should promote flourishing without being goals all on their own. But this world is broken. Relationships are fractured. Poverty is real. And it’s only through Christ that we can once again flourish through restored relationship to God. It’s then that we can learn how to engage with each other, ourselves, and the physical things around us in a way that promotes human flourishing.
A Generous Precedent
In his book Free of Charge, theologian Miroslav Volf describes Christ as the most “indescribable gift” that comes from God’s totally radical generosity. Because we are grateful, Christianity is characterized by self-giving love. What’s more, we get the opportunity to be a part of God’s creative work blessing people and creation. In turn, we are transformed as we witness the transformation of the people and things around us. A big part of that change comes when we reflect God’s generosity.
When we say “generosity,” we don’t mean an act of giving. The Bible teaches that generosity is a mindset. It’s an orientation and a lifestyle that involves both thankfulness and compassion for others. This is shown consistently in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which tell us exactly how we flourish: love God and love our neighbor. Loving others requires that we give away something of ourselves. That might mean material possessions. It could also mean a choice to make a decision that serves someone else first. Or giving of your time. Or sacrificing the desire to be right.
Janet, a Food for the Hungry facilitator in Peru, says she is thankful to FH for strengthening her spiritual life.
That’s why when we look at the communities we work in, we want to know about how parents treat their children, how neighbors respond to conflict, and how families share their resources. The interdependence of a healthy community requires that we each work to create an environment in which those around us can thrive. Since transformed relationships involve both the ability and the desire to care for others, generosity is essential to our flourishing. Before FH exits a community, we look for the signs of transformation that involve both a move out of material poverty and evidence of a changed worldview.
Generosity Shows Thankfulness
And it’s in generosity that we show thankfulness for Christ, the one who made it possible for any of us to flourish. 2 Corinthians 8:9 tells us:
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
When we live generously, we reflect Christ and show a gratefulness rooted in our hearts! And by willingly giving ourselves away, we imitate God’s generosity to us, rebuild our relationship to other people and create healthy relationships to things that put them in their proper place. In doing so, relational wholeness and flourishing become possible.
30 Days of Thanks
In the month of November, FH is celebrating thirty days of thanks. And we’re inviting you to participate by sharing with us what you are thankful for— big and small. Members of the FH community around the globe have already shared with us what they are thankful for, and we’re challenging ourselves to cultivate grateful hearts for the things we have and for how Christ’s coming has restored the possibility of our flourishing. Then we’re moving out, to let our hearts overflowing with thanks inspire us to live lives of radical generosity that serve those around us. Will you join us?
Check out these resources!
Ebook: Fun Ways to Lead Your Kids to a Thankful Heart
Devotional: Learn more about the four key relationships that lead to human flourishing.