Today I want to talk about what giving generously looks like.
I think a stumbling block for us is the cost of the things we have and the things we consider giving away. It’s easier to give away something that isn’t worth anything to us or doesn’t cost us anything. There’s no benefit in it for us. But, when it’s something that does cost us a lot or if it’s of great value all of a sudden things change.
Pretend with me that you had a fake diamond ring- you know the kind that single twenty something women wear to pretend they are married so they don’t have to deal with guys hitting on them. Well after a few years of taking that ring on and off your finger, you find the man of your dreams and get married. Soon after, a couple of your single girlfriends stop by and one asked if she can borrow your fake diamond. You go back to your room and think about that ring and how you have no use for it anymore so you decide to go ahead and give it to her. A small, but gracious gesture, and your friend is ever so thankful. You don’t really think much of it because it’s of no value to you- only the real diamond ring on your finger is.
BUT what if later you found out that the fake ring you gave her wasn’t a fake at all but it was real- a full carat diamond. What would start going through your mind?
You would probably be upset with yourself for giving away something so valuable. Then you’d start thinking about all the money you lost and about ALL the stuff you could have bought with that money. You might even go as far as to think about how much “good” you could do with the money. Had you only known.
Now think about this. Would you, knowing the true value of the ring, still have given it to your friend?
There’s a story in Mark 14 that grabbed my attention the other day. It had to do with this very thing- no, not fake diamond rings, but things of value. Jesus was with a group of people during passover (right before he would be betrayed).
“…a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,”said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me.
I don’t know what initiated the response by this woman, but I do know that this wasn’t something she just thought about flippantly. To give up something that was so valuable had to take some courage and faith- especially to do it in front of a room full of men known to be judgmental and critical. But look at what Jesus said, “she has done a beautiful thing to me”.
The point I’m getting at is this. I think we can be so concerned about the cost of our things that we don’t think about doing beautiful things for people. We know we’re supposed to give and be generous, but to what extent? Would God really ask us to give ( and maybe even “waste”) something that was equal to a year’s wages?
I have a tendency to act like God is running out of money- do you ever do that? You make deals with God- like saying, “God if you can just help me get that car I won’t buy any clothes for the rest of the year to make up the cost.” Or “God in exchange for actually going to on that mission trip I’ll just stay here to save that money and help around here.”
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be careful with where or how we spend our money. There’s balance and wisdom to both. What I’m saying is- God is NOT running out of money or resources. If he puts something in our heart to do let’s not hold back because in our human mind it seems like too much- too generous.
Someone told me recently, “where there’s vision there’s provision”. God isn’t going to ask us to do something without providing the necessary means to make it happen. The question is, are we going to follow through with it?
So, what drives our giving? Is it God or the price tag?
Part of “using well” what we are given is not letting the price tag drive our giving but God. We should give generously and be a blessing for others.
I know these things aren’t easy to talk (or write) about. It’s not the most popular way to get blog stats, but it’s what God is placing in my heart. Tomorrow is the last one, promise. I’ll conclude the series by sharing some practical things our family and our church has does recently in helping those in need.