Several months ago I was reading Teresa of Avila, Her thoughts on prayer also apply to philanthropy. She likened prayer to watering a garden, and with every subsequent activity our efforts become gradually less onerous.

Like prayer, when we first begin to give it’s as difficult as pulling water from a well. But this gets easier with repetition, so that each subsequent time we give the flow comes more naturally, as though we were using a hand pump or, eventually, an irrigation system. Eventually, generosity becomes second nature. We give and give because there is a natural spring inside us that flows up and out.

We must become like the river. We must invite others to play and be refreshed. Too many Christians are like wadis, dry river beds made entirely barren by their refusal to give. But the church of the future will experience a massive season of rain, during which time the wadis will transform into raging torrents.

Sadly, other Christians are like swamps. Water comes in, stops moving, and as a result of having nowhere to go, stagnates. The putrefaction invites disease, until swamps are fetid and huffing murks where nothing lives and nothing good can grow. The church of the future will live by the maxim that God’s gifts flow to us so they can flow through us.

Adapted from Then.Now.Next.: A biblical vision of the church, the kingdom, and the future