Abraham Lincoln once said something that holds true today: “A lawyer's time and advice are his stock-in-trade.” When it comes down to what attorneys like myself actually do for clients, we spend time listening and learning about them. We spend time offering legal advice about what has happened to them and what they could or should do next. What I love about this position is that it also affords me the chance to walk alongside someone who is going through a difficult time. As an attorney at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, I have daily opportunities to be generous to those who need help. I currently have a client, Harold*, who needs to file a chapter 7 bankruptcy. His wages as a groundskeeper will never be enough to deal with the debt he has accumulated from a few seasons of under-employment and health issues. Moreover, a debt collector has obtained a wage garnishment and is taking 25% of his income, putting him further under the poverty line. This inhibits his ability to keep stable housing and to pay other bills. Harold is stressed and overwhelmed with all of this. Several times he has given me envelopes that he is afraid to open. Here, being generous means listening to Harold with an empathetic ear as we open these envelopes together. There have also been a few times when Harold and I were scheduled to meet, but he missed the appointment. In these instances, I do my best to reschedule the appointment for him—even if inconvenient.
When I fail to be generous, I start to believe that serving the client in front of me is not worth all the time I am putting into it. I start to think that my advice will never be properly understood—much less followed. But when my mind and heart turn toward God’s generous love, I am grateful that He does not see me or anyone else as a waste of time. Rather, God has always promised to be generous to us all. The only possible response to this is gratitude, which produces in me generosity.
There is a powerful promise in Romans 8:32 about God’s generosity: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” I have found, as this verse reminds, that the most sustaining motivation for being generous is the reality that God has so generously loved me—even when I was his enemy.
*Name has been changed