Today I am writing about something that, I must confess, has probably caused me more spiritual pain and agony than almost anything else in my entire life. Today I am going to write about giving. I have always been really stingy with MY money. I have not been faithful giving to the church.
What I am writing isn’t about that, really, even though it weaves its way into that subject that none of us really like to hear about. Giving to the church is an illustration, an example and a pattern for our lives. It is only the beginning of God prying a portion of what he has blessed me with from my Scrooge-like grip.
I see people give every year as I ring the Salvation Army bell. Some people scurry into the Wally World pausing for seconds to empty the change from their pockets. Others stop and dig around in purses for something to drop in the bucket. Many people hand a dollar to a kid and let the kid stuff the money into the slot.
But there are a few people that get out of their car with cash in hand, smiling as they cross the parking lot making a bee-line to the bucket. They obviously know something I don’t know. You can see the joy on their face as they stuff the bills through the hole in the bucket lid. The buckets have lids nowadays. Years ago they were open and cash was just tossed inside but some people stole from the buckets. I cringe when I think that someone could do that.
I can give money and I should give money. I am learning to part with it and I can tell you that I am not going hungry. If you could see the size of my stomach and the struggle to fit into my clothes, you would have proof of that. I need to just stop calling it giving, though. I can give and walk away. What I give is still valuable to whoever I gave it to.
Does it do much for me? Maybe a little. Could it do more? Absolutely. I’d like to have that joy that I see from those few people that are excited to stuff a few bills in the bucket. I’m learning how to do that.
2 Corinthians 9:7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
Hopefully, when we give to our church, our church is giving to the community. There are operating expenses for any church but the church needs to give of itself to others as the Bible commands us to do. Our church does several things as a service to the community. One of those things is to give free oil changes to hundreds of families that can’t afford them a couple times a year. Giving from church members funds that.
But there is more giving required. A whole bunch of people get up on Saturday mornings and meet in the church parking lot wearing their grubbies and get dirty doing the work. They give their time. There isn’t a sour face in the bunch. Even with the cuts and bruises I always manage to acquire in any given automotive endeavor, I am happy to be out their giving my time.
OK, I said earlier I need to stop calling it giving. Here is where I do it. The word is sharing. By sharing of myself, it is much more clear that I am not giving and walking away and hoping that someone else is a good steward of that which is given. I am investing myself. I am a part of administering that gift. I am seeing what giving can do not just tossing money in the basket or bucket. I am a part of the journey, not a spectator along the way.
Isaiah 58:6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.
7 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”
This kind of giving needs interaction and investing. I need to be a part of the solution to the hurts and struggles of others. I need to feel what they feel. When God throws his joy upon them, he will cover me with it as well. I have to get it out of my head that when I give, it is strictly a financial transaction. What I share is often money, but I have to part with my time as well. Sometimes that is more difficult than separating me from my money. Taking time to obey God’s commandments for the benefit of others is a great thing. When I share of myself, I will be inevitably, undoubtedly, abundantly be rewarded with whatever I need to continue sharing.
I do NOT go to church to get myself fulfilled. If that is my goal, well, then I will be disappointed in the whole ordeal. I must go to share myself with others as I dedicate myself to do what God desires. There is joy in that.
Isaiah 58:8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! 10 Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. 12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.”
Sharing isn’t easy for me. I am self-centered and I want what is best for me, yet I fail to be able to see what if best for me when it comes to my actions. I tend to do things that are not so great. When I follow God and let go of my other idols, my time, my money, my ego, God gives me what is best for me and I canexperience joy as what I “own” falls into the bucket of generosity.