As a young Christian, I’d tighten up my sphincter whenever a pastor talked about giving. I wrongly thought giving was all about providing financial support for obscure church programs or distant overseas missions in Africa. True givers were those who always volunteered in the church nursery, or sacrificially dolloped mashed potatoes at an inner city soup kitchen. It was OK not to have joy. In fact, if giving felt good I was probably doing it wrong.
But inwardly I cringed at these things. And I never volunteered. This kind of giving seemed so joyless, so austere, so limiting, so confining compared to full fledged Biblical giving. Yet this was the only giving I’d ever hear about. And so a subtle and powerful message was conveyed, even if unintended.
Giving seemed to matter only if was to the church. And you know you’re giving well if you’re miserable, or at least unhappy about it. I now know this to be totally false. But if I felt that way, then perhaps I’m not alone here.
The Bible says just the opposite about giving. God loves a cheerful giver. And we should give with all our heart and not grudgingly. So why wasn’t the church helping us give cheerfully? How come no one ever gave tips on how to give as a lifestyle? Or where? Or how often? Or in what manner? How come we were never told how to free up our time, our resources and our talents, so giving was the joy God intended it to be?
And couldn’t they spice it up a bit? Where was the variety? Where was the creativity? Weren’t we supposed to be actively engaged in our giving? Or did God want us to be passionless spectators who sit in the pews and mindlessly open our wallets?
The answer is NO WAY! Our God is a God of variety. A God of tremendous creativity. He makes different tropical fish, delights in beautiful scintillating sunsets, and no two snow flakes are alike. And guess what? We were created in God’s image! We too thrive on variety. And that means we need variety in our giving.
We need to be creatively engaged and active in our giving. This means to give more than to our church. Even if it means giving our church less. Shocking but Jesus wants us to give to further His name and His character and His love. And it’s not just on churchy things. Yes, if you can give without reducing your church offerings all the better.
But don’t get stuck on it. If you bring it up before Jesus week by week, He will show you step by step.
For specific examples of where and how to give, see The Joy of Creative Giving
But I’m Always Broke: Last Thing I Need Is A Guilt Trip
Giving is not just about money. Giving is about a mission. Here is my mission: BE CHEAP ON THINGS BUT LAVISH ON PEOPLE. Don’t become a monk and deprive yourself. But shore up your money for things that involve others.
If you’re doing something alone, do it cheaply. If you’re doing something that builds up another or builds a relationship, do it lavishly. And always be praying to Jesus for guidance. Ask Him how to free up your time and money and your resources so you can give often and give creatively.
When you shop, when you eat, when you ride your bike, ask yourself: Is there anyone who is hurting or needs encouragement? Can someone benefit from a small gift I saw at the dollar store? Would someone like to ride with me on my spare bicycle? Or go to that restaurant with me or with someone else they care about? How can I use my new grill with a colleague or a neighbor?
Eat cheap if you’re going out to dinner alone or with your everyday friends. Save what you didn’t spend to take your financially struggling roommate to a lavish steakhouse. Or use the extra money to help them with rent or utilities.
It’s more than OK to enjoy a fancy meal with them. Remember that God loves you too! And He delights in you using your resources to build relationships. You’re not supposed to be a martyr all the time. Abraham and King David enjoyed their wealth as they encouraged people. So can you. Just don’t get selfishly caught up in being fat dumb and happy. Bring others along with you! (and always remember our King and that it’s Him you seek to honor.)
Can’t afford a fancy dinner? How about cheap but fun toys from Super Target and Walmart? I delight in getting bouncy light up balls, farting slime, splat balls and other cheap nic knacks which I give away to people at work, people in my walking group and anyone else who needs to see love in action.
I can get a bag full of gifts for 1-3 bucks apiece! And the Lord smiles on this! For I am always open to building relationships and being ready to talk about Him when the time is right.
This is what giving is about. Your time, your money, your skills and your resources are all meant to love our Jesus and love others. The danger is when you get caught up in material things as if you belonged in this world. You don’t.
If you are spending your money on a fancy car, a big fat house or a nice boat, fine. Leverage it to love Jesus and love others. And pray to Him frequently on how to use these things for His Glory. Chances are, you’ll start delighting in giving as I do. That’s how our Lord operates. He revels in using these things to bring everyone along for the ride!
For more, see the Christian-SOS blog The Joy of Creative Giving.