i have recently had a revelation on giving. i think a combination of truly seeing people experiencing the toughness and roughness of the downturn in the economy paired with where i work and the reality of poverty, sub-standard living, and homelessness in downtown atlanta along with a recent sermon has resulted in the following change in my lifestyle:
i will give to the fullest extent of my ability to anyone who asks.
seriously. pondering hannah's happiness fast, i decided on a generosity fast--giving to anyone who asked me and actually a few who didn't, but were in obvious and dire need. a few days after starting this, i heard a sermon by andy stanley on giving with a different expectation for a different person with a different heart/mind-set.
1. i have been blessed with much, and to whom much has been given, much is expected (luke 12:48)
2. i have only been given what time/money i have by God for God--for the Kingdom; furthermore, i know that i am only a steward of what God has given me, and that everything He gives us (good or bad) He wants us to give back to Him
3. i can't justify not giving when Grant and i have been so stable, so sure, so steady in a time of national crisis
4. with a different expectation and a different heart/mind-set i love giving and i only want to have more to give more--it has become a lifestyle and a joy.
it is an amazing thing and, like most joys in the Lord, is overwhelming and difficult to explain to others.
the verse from the sermon that confirmed with God's word what was already written on my heart:
Love for Enemies
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
Do Not Judge Others
37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
as andy explains in his message, giving for all kinds of reasons is good--giving at all, is a good and right thing--but when Jesus opens with, "but you who are willing: listen," He is inviting us into a different kind of giving. giving paired with loving compassion minus the typical expectations we have in giving--waiting for repayment, acknowledgement, credit, honor, change, a "fixed" person or situation, or even a "thank you."
God does not give with expectations.
Jesus died for us when we were yet sinners--wicked and ungrateful, undeserving and unchanged. (romans 5:8)
andy goes on to say that the focus cannot be on the people and circumstances here on earth--they may never change, but we should still give lavishly (because our Father gave so adoringly to us). the focus must be on God, on being like God, on representing God as a light unto the darkness--for even sinners give to those who love them and to those who deserve it, but who gives to the undeserving if i don't? who is left to love and accept and support and take in and cherish and meet the needs of the homeless, the loveless, the widows, the orphans, the foreigners, the minorities, if not you and me?
Jesus died, not for our salvation--which is an incredible benefit that brings me to my knees--but to please the Father; to bring glory and recognition to the Father (john 12:27-28). His focus was on heaven, on the Almighty God (john 5:19).
the focus must be on the Father and bringing Him glory.
and finally, we must change our hearts, our mindset. we live in a wealthy nation where--unlike many others--our government has a system (albeit flawed and abused) for taking care of and somewhat providing for people "in need." somehow this had ingrained in me the assumption-turned-accepted-as-fact that it's not our responsibility to provide care, money, food, shelter, clothes for the poor--especially the "wicked" the "ungrateful" the "unworking poor" the ones "who will never change"--because it's the government's responsibility. not only is this misguided, but it is simply unbiblical (james 1:27). Jesus dines with, loves on, speaks to, cares for, demonstrates love and miracles for these very people--and aside from that, He continually loves and provides for you and me everyday, and i am certainly undeserving of His constant grace, constant mercy, constant sustenance, constant compassion, and constant forgiveness.
when i experience the joy of giving freely without expectation, the desire somehow grows. i can't explain it, i can only attest to it and simply say that this is a life-changing experience, a life-long habit, a renewed spirit of thinking, and a revelation on giving for me.
Jesus has invited us into a new kind of giving, where--giving without expectation, focused on the Kingdom not this earthy world, and bringing the Father, and not ourselves, glory--we have the privilege of walking around as his arms, heart, head, eyes, ears, mouth, feet and hands, if we but have ears to listen and the obedience of love.
any takers? ;)