A few days ago I had a dream in which I was given a large amount of food for free. I had done nothing to deserve the food, nor did I really need it. I thanked the girl who gave me the food and I left. I kept the food in a large tote bag and carried it around with me. At some point, I left the bag on a table, but stood nearby to keep an eye on it. I noticed a girl trying to sneak some of the food out of the bag. I then moved closer to the bag and she backed off. This happened twice and finally, I realized that she must really want the food. So I opened my bag and offered the food to her, telling her she can have whatever she wants. It turned out she was starving. She then gratefully took out enough food to make a sandwich and we sat at the table while she ate. I felt a lot of love for her as we sat at the table.
The dream has many meanings, but the meaning that applies to most people is that God gives us so much. And, frankly, most of the time we don't deserve all He gives us. He also often blesses us without our asking.
Unfortunately, this dream does not depict how I naturally am. Instead, the dream shows me what I ought to be. I have come to realize that I am not inherently a generous person, and I tend to give more when I know and love a person. Because I am picky about who I am generous with, the Lord has shown me that this makes me a respecter of persons.
God, on the other hand, is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) and consequently, He is incredibly generous with all of us. If we are to be like God, we need to generous with everyone, not just those we love or those who treat us well. So, just as we try to emulate His long suffering, His mercy, His patience, and so on, we also ought to emulate His generosity.
King Benjamin explained that even if we serve God all our lives, we will never be able to repay Him. When we obey Him, He immediately blesses us. For this reason alone, we ought to feel incredibly humble.
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
24 ... he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?King Benjamin also states that since God gives us so much it should be natural to be generous with others:
25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you. (Mosiah 2)
And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another. (Mosiah 4:21).He goes on to list various ways in which we can love others (or, in other words, extend that generosity to others):
13 And ye will not have a mind to injure one another,Essentially, because God loves us and blesses us so much, we ought to love and bless every one else, without restriction and without hesitation. In my dream, God was showing me that He has blessed me and so why would I not bless others around me, especially those in need (the girl in my dream was starving) even if they don't ask me (the girl never once asked me for food) and even those who treat us badly (the girl was trying to steal from me). God doesn't care how people treat us--He simply wants us to love them and bless their lives.
[e.g. don't gossip, lie about another or try pull someone down] but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due. [express gratitude; give back things that don't belong to us]
14 And ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. [e.g. do not neglect the needs of your children because you're distracted by social media]
15 But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another.
16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; [e.g. comfort those who need comfort, mourn with those who mourn] ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. [e.g. give to those who ask for something]
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind? (Mosiah 4)
Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). Blessing the lives of those who treat us badly is the essence of charity. It is the fundamental way we become sinless and pure. It is how we become perfect (Matthew 5:48).
As I have studied the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah, I was amazed at how often it says that a prevalent sin among God's people is not taking care of the needy as He desires us to. I think so often we do a little bit here and there for others (take a meal to a family, greet someone at church, and so on) but we are not developing the kind of generous heart that God requires from us.
And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple. (D&C 52:40)There are several parables which describe the generosity we ought to develop. For example, when Jesus was asked what must we do to inherit eternal life, He gave the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan man was incredibly generous and Jesus was suggesting that this kind of love and generosity is requisite for eternal life. Consider if you were to encounter a stranger from a group of people your culture despises, would you help them in the same way the Samaritan man did? He not only stopped to help in the moment, but also took him to a place where he would be cared for (perhaps like taking him to the hospital) AND paid for all his needs AND said he would check up on him in the future. I know some might say, "But I don't have the resources to pay for all of someone's medical needs." However, if you did have those resources, would you pay for that? And once you have paid for his needs, would you continue to check on him to make sure he is healing? My point is, God knows our circumstances and what we are capable of. He also knows our hearts. And, what He wants is for our hearts to change. He wants our hearts to exude love and generosity.
This is not me yet, but God is telling me to become like this. I want to be generous with people even when they take advantage of me and even when I perceive they don't deserve it. I want to be generous with those I know who will squander what I give them. Why? Because God does that with us! He is generous with us even though we don't deserve it. He is generous with us even though we squander what He gives us. Too often I have placed conditions on when and what to give, thinking this one deserves this and this one does not.
Currently in my journey towards sanctification, I have been trying to focus all my attention on how best to love others. I am trying to consider each moment and what the most loving action is. I feel like this is an extra dimension to consider when I am contemplating how I can give love to others.
In the end, far greater blessings result from genuinely loving and serving others. A while ago I was struck by the differences in what the nine Nephite disciples asked for and received versus what the remaining three asked for and received. The nine disciples said they wanted to go to Jesus' kingdom when they died:
2 And they all spake, save it were three, saying: We desire that after we have lived unto the age of man, that our ministry, wherein thou hast called us, may have an end, that we may speedily come unto thee in thy kingdom.The other three desired to serve other people until the Second Coming, just as John the Beloved desired. Jesus described these three as more blessed and that they would as a result one day "sit down in the kingdom of my Father." (3 Nephi 28:7,10)
3 And he said unto them: Blessed are ye because ye desired this thing of me; therefore, after that ye are seventy and two years old ye shall come unto me in my kingdom; and with me ye shall find rest. (3 Nephi 28)
There is a difference between being offered a place in Jesus' kingdom and a place in the Father's kingdom. Why were those three given a greater blessing? Because they possessed and displayed this generosity of heart that God requires of us. Likewise, as we develop the same level of charity, we too will be given the same eternal reward.