Thoughts on Giving, by Elizabeth

With our youth, as the last post about Limpho demonstrates, we’ve been focusing on the importance of living generously, sharing and giving to one another. As we discussed practical ways we can share, most kids said they will give clothes to their friend, or some food to their neighbor; tangible gifts. During this discussion, I looked around the group and saw many kids who I know have nothing extra to give. I wondered if the same question that popped into my mind was torturing theirs; “If I have nothing extra, what will I give? Am I destined to be forever on the receiving end of this equation? Will I never get to be the one who blesses, but must always just sit and wait to be blessed?”

This question was highlighted with startling boldness in my weekly bible study with some older girls in the village the following Wednesday. We were discussing John 15, how Jesus is the vine and we are the branches and when we remain in him, we bear an abundance of fruit. This fruit, however, is not produced for our sake alone, but to be shared and given to others. When asking each other how we feel God is leading us to apply this in our lives, one girl said she would give to others who are in need.

“To whom will you give? And what will you give?” I asked, in the interest of keeping our commitments specific.

“I don’t know…I actually can’t give anything; I have nothing to give!” she replied with conviction.

I smiled and asked, “Don’t you have love?”

“Yes…”

“Don’t you have hands?”

“Yes…”

“Then you have plenty to give! Share a word of encouragement, or lend a helping hand to someone who is busy or carrying a heavy load. The gifts that mean the most are often not things we hold in our hands, after all.”

My response puzzled her, but it seemed to bring hope as well. Even she, who seemed to have nothing to give, actually had something valuable to share! And in that moment, my question was also answered.

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:17-19 “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

When we think of giving, our first thoughts typically center on money or goods. We think those things are the most needed, the most valuable in this world. However, with this mindset the poor are excluded from God’s command to give generously. If we think we must have stuff or money to give, we miss the point. In scripture, material and monetary gifts are emphasized as needed in the church and the world; however, good deeds are placed on an equal footing and are described as having eternal value, and the way to store up treasures in heaven.

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19a-21

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” Hebrews 13:16

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men, because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does…” Ephesians 6:7-8a

It’s easy to think of gifts of love, service, or encouragement as having less value because they are so common, accessible to everyone. Even the laws of economics tell us that the more there is of a commodity, the less the value is for each unit. But in God’s Kingdom, many things are the opposite of our worldly view. Perhaps the reason God values acts of service at least as much as, if not more than gifts of money or goods is for the very fact that they are available to everyone! God has made his love, his grace, his salvation, Himself available to each and every person on earth. He LOVES including, welcoming, availing Himself and His gifts to the church and to the world, so why wouldn’t He value the same from us?

As we study scripture, it becomes clear that gifts of money to the church and to the world (especially the poor) are necessary; by giving our money and our “stuff” we bless those in need, we show our love for God, we provide for the needs of the church, and we support the work of the Lord. So please, by all means, give your money! Give your stuff, gifts of both the new and the old. But please, please don’t stop there. It’s not enough to just write a check. It’s not enough to take your old clothes to a donation center. God asks us to give of ourselves, for the sake of those who need love and for our own sake as well. A remarkable thing happens when two hearts connect. It’s a good deed to hand your sack lunch to the homeless man on the corner out the window of your car. He’s thankful for the meal, and you feel pretty good about your generosity. However, that interaction is not as significant to you, or to that man, as would be the encounter you have when you park your car, walk over to him, take the time to hear his story, pray for his needs, and then eat your sack lunch together.

When we give of ourselves (our time, talents, love, encouragement) from our hearts we are changed and the world is changed. Jesus came down, walked among us, felt our pain, knew our stories, lived our lives, and that’s how we knew He loved us. He met practical needs, too. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, connected resource with need, and many other tangible acts of goodness. But what is most significant to us about the life of Christ is how He showed us His heart and gave of Himself, His perfect love. That’s what the world needs from us. That’s what the church needs from us. So give your money, give your stuff, but more than that be sure to give of yourself, from your heart.

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work…Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-8,10-12

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