Giving. This should be easy. Time. Talent. Treasure. I’ve got this. Or so I thought. A brief search on the meaning of giving reveals the same idea wherever you look: the transfer of something without the expectation of receiving something in return . . . sounds about right and even sounds Biblical. Mother Teresa famously said, “This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.” Sound familiar? It is. Luke 21:1-4 says, “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”
I’ve been giving since I can remember, so I decided to make a calendar to write down everything I did to “give” for a week.
Helping a friend move. Check! That’s time.
Listening to a friend in difficulty. Time again.
Helping my husband with a project on his computer. Time and a little talent. Double check and happy husband points!
We tithe each month. Check, that’s treasure.
Someone needed a place to stay for a few months. We said yes. Check again!
Babysat grandkids last minute. More time.
And so it went. By day six I had a long list of giving activities that sounded amazing! Yet somehow something was off. I honestly don’t even know why I started that list. Ego perhaps? As I stared down at my list I felt the gentle tugging of the Holy Spirit reminding me of how very prideful and human I am. My time, talent, and treasure were given on my terms: when I had time and what I wanted to give. There was no specific praying about it, contemplating, or understanding of God’s heart in it, and for the most part, no real sacrifice. Once again, I had taken matters into my own hand, thinking that I knew exactly how to study and practice the discipline of giving.
Convicted to the core, I stopped listing all of the “excellent giving” I was doing and I started reading and meditating on what scripture had to say about it, asking God what He wanted to remind me about giving. One would think that at this stage in my life that I would have started this way. I asked myself questions like “Why did the discipline of giving stand out to me?” “What makes me so passionate about giving?” “Why am I so quick to make my lists to check?” And most importantly, “Where is my heart in all of this?”
Once again that gentle nudging (this time from a sweet friend) was tugging at my heart and she reminded me of one of our many “adopted sons,” and our heart in giving of ourselves and our resources to others.
Giving is a way of life, not a checklist.
He sat in our living room weeping. We were so moved by his story and by our chance meeting of him. He had grown up in the projects of South Central Los Angeles and had used football and college as his escape. He was now done, without the prospects of the NFL or any other job opportunities. This man had a passion to help young men and women who came from similar backgrounds. He desired a chance to get his masters degree and work as an academic counselor in the community college arena in order to motivate and shepherd kids. We had offered to help him realize his dream and opened our home as a place he could live until he achieved his goal. That was 4 years ago and today he is working at a community college doing just what he dreamed of. I remembered how God spoke into our hearts in that moment: hearts that were broken and humbled to be a part of this God story; hearts that were committed to use the resources we had been blessed with to further God’s Kingdom.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Giving starts here: with God’s gift of ultimate sacrifice. He held his treasured Son with an open hand. After pondering this, I simply needed to first celebrate Jesus, the giver of all good gifts, and then remember and understand His heart of giving as an outflow of His love for us. We learn giving from the Giver of Life itself, both physical and spiritual. I needed to re-embrace the idea that we are to hold everything with an open hand and keep our hearts ready to give moment-by-moment, day-by-day. Giving is a way of life, not a checklist.
When we understand the truth of HIS love for us, we are compelled to be generous and cheerful givers. We give as a thank offering to God; the motivation is to glorify God and make him well known.
If we are not careful, giving, like many of the disciplines of a Christian life, can be done to check a box or to make our prideful hearts feel better, and not as an outflow of a submitted heart. It’s not how much or what we give in any situation, but instead it’s our heart in giving.
Have you asked God to develop in you a generous heart?
Have you relinquished your own agenda in giving to be open to the giving opportunities that God puts in your path?
How will you begin to submit your heart to the ultimate giver?
“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
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Image Credit: Hamed Saber, Creative Commons