Faith and Values: Real giving has many dimensions
Do you have a plan?
Most of us plan things that matter most to us. We plan to get important work done, we plan our next vacation, and – I trust – we plan to vote next week.
This time of year, we also do well to plan our giving.
Soon, we’ll be inundated with reminders that the season of charity is upon us. Store clerks increasingly ask us to donate, letters and emails flood us from various worthy causes, and the Salvation Army bell ringers soon will take to their stations.
Christians show the love of God to others through giving. And the Bible gives us important direction for giving in a way that truly helps others and reflects the love of God.
Give intentionally. God would have us initiate giving, rather than do so in response to feelings of guilt or social awkwardness. We imitate the loving heart of God when we deliberately reach out to someone in need; that’s precisely how he has loved us.
One of the best-known verses in Scripture makes this clear: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).
God did not wait for needy sinners to cry out to him for rescue. He initiated our rescue out of love.
Can you imagine the surprise some of our local charities might experience if more of us were to call them and actually ask how best to help them?
Unless we prepare to give, we probably won’t give.
Give prayerfully. We simply cannot give to every cause, nor respond to every need that comes in front of us. Nor should we try to do so. We need discernment to know which needs are genuine, and which needs God would have us respond to personally.
Christians are blessed with the privilege of asking God for direction, knowing that he will lead us into decisions that please him and truly benefit others. “Call to me, and I will answer you …” (Jeremiah 33:3, NIV).
Prayerless giving is not unlike thoughtless giving. Our generosity means so much more when it flows out of a heart moved by God himself. He will lead us to true needs and move our hearts toward compassion. Let’s ask God for direction so that we can give with clarity and deliberateness.
Give sacrificially. Lately, I’ve been surprised by the increase in requests at local stores that I give $1 in the checkout line to a cause of their choosing. It seems almost to be the norm now.
The charities these stores support know something about us: We will readily give an amount that doesn’t really cause us any pain.
The Apostle Peter encouraged first-century Christians to strain themselves in their love for one another. “Love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22, New King James Version). He refers to a love of choice, not compulsion, and a love that is stretched to its limits.
This is how God loves, and gives, to us. He is not stingy with his love toward us, nor does he give us his scraps. When God sent his son into the world, he gave his best – an unfathomable sacrifice.
Does your giving really cost you anything? Is it merely a tax write-off? Do you ever go without comforts so that you might have an abundance to give to others? Don’t misunderstand: I really don’t like those questions, either.
Friends, the season of giving is upon us.
Do you have a plan?
Steve Massey is pastor of Hayden Bible Church (www.haydenbible.org). He can be reached at (208) 772-2511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.