It is not easy handing things over to others. If we have ownership of something or have found meaning through a special role in an organization, it is hard to let somebody else take over. It is difficult to let go of overseeing a task of importance to us or relinquishing control over a favorite project.
John the Baptist is a perfect example of the opposite of needing to be in charge. His whole life was dedicated to preparing the way for Jesus. In the Gospel, John makes the generous declaration that he is not in charge when he says, “After me is to come a man who ranks ahead of me” (John 1:29-34). With a generous spirit, John handed over his prominent place among the people as the prophet calling for repentance. His generosity of spirit opened the way for Jesus to arrive on the scene and capture the hearts and souls of the people.
Conflict and division among people are often the result of refusing to disclose knowledge or reluctance to let others be in charge. In the workplace, we might have the expertise in getting something done well but we will not share it, fearing that we will be outdone by somebody else. At times, withholding important information is used as a weapon to keep us in control. Knowledge really is power.
Generosity of spirit is the key to successful transitions from generation to generation. It is the generous spirit of the older, more experienced folks to allow the younger, less experienced ones to move into new roles and responsibilities that keep groups and families thriving. Succession planning is not just a fancy term. It is a necessity that only truly happens with generosity of spirit. Building peace in the world requires a generosity of spirit that inspires leaders in governments to relinquish status in order to let the wisdom of the people emerge in the form of new roles and responsibilities.
The ultimate generosity of spirit is manifested by God who says through the prophet Isaiah, “It is too little for you to be my servant…I will make you a light to the nations” (Isaiah 49:5-6). From humble servant to light of the nations. It is amazing what generosity of spirit can accomplish.
Together in faith,
The Very Rev. Christopher Smith, rector