By Victor M. Parachin
In a rural county, a handful of residents offered $45,000 in donations to build fire stations for small towns in their area so that homes and businesses would have access to fire fighting services.
At a major polytechnic university, officials were pleasantly surprised when they received $5 million from an anonymous donor. The gift will be used to establish a health information management program for undergraduate students.
Upon learning that a civic organization working with paralyzed military veterans was low on funding, an avid motorcyclist sold off his prized motorcycle. He donated the entire $15,000 to that organization.
These true examples show that donations come in various sizes and forms and are given to various organizations. Yet anxiety and fear about the economy prompt some people to be hesitant, even neglectful, about giving. Nevertheless, every person has the ability to give something and help in some way. Let’s be reminded of the following truths about giving.
Giving is a spiritual obligation.
The Bible is clear: people of faith are obligated to give, and those who do so are especially noted and blessed by God. Consider these biblical texts (listed in the Contemporary English Version):
• Deuteronomy 15:7—“Don’t be mean and selfish with your money.”
• Deuteronomy 15:14—“The more the Lord has given you, the more you should give them.”
• Psalm 112:9—“They will always be remembered and greatly praised, because they were kind and freely gave to the poor.”
• Proverbs 14:21—“God blesses everyone who is kind to the poor.”
• Proverbs 29:7—“The wicked don’t care about the rights of the poor, but good people do.”
• Isaiah 58:10—“Give your food to the hungry and care for the homeless. Then your light will shine in the dark; your darkest hour will be like the noonday sun.”
• 2 Corinthians 9:7—“Each of you must make up your own mind about how much to give. But don’t feel sorry that you must give and don’t feel that you are forced to give. God loves people who love to give.”
Furthermore, God does not provide exemptions to anyone from the responsibility of giving. Even those with modest means are commended for assisting with their meager resources. Jesus himself was impressed by a small donation from a very poor woman, and he used her example to teach his disciples an important lesson about giving:
“I tell you that this poor widow has put in more than all the others. Everyone else gave what they didn’t need. But she is very poor and gave everything she had” (Mark 12:43, 44).
Giving is the antidote to greed and consumerism.
Those who share with others demonstrate that they are successfully resisting greed and a consumer mentality. They are more interested in raising their standard of giving rather than their standard of living.
In his book, Jesus and Money, Ben Witherington tells of his grandparents who were “profoundly committed Christians, dedicated to serving others even when they had little.” During the height of the depression years, his grandfather gave $6 a week to the poor when his firefighter salary was only $20 per week. Of his grandfather, Witherington proudly said: “He did not allow his culture to determine his approach to money, wealth, work, remuneration and the like. . . . He sat lightly with possessions, and never felt compelled to shop until he dropped. He gave sacrificially not only to his church but to many others as well.”
Giving is a way of growing spiritually.
Conduct an examination of conscience concerning your attitude toward giving by asking these kinds of questions:
• Am I a cheerful giver or a grudging one? Do I truly feel blessed whenever I give or is there resentment?
• Do I give liberally or minimally? Am I generous and magnanimous or am I tightfisted and miserly?
• Do I give freely or am I hesitant in responding?
The answer to such questions determines whether or not we put our whole heart into our giving. That helps ascertain whether our giving is truly sincere and from the heart or merely superficial, customary, and expected. Your giving can empower you to grow spiritually.
Giving helps us establish a healthy relationship with money.
In his book Secular Sanctity, Edward Hays identified specific ways that givers can have a balanced and healthy relationship with their money.
First, money is a symbol of work well done. He says money earned is rightly spent “to nourish our bodies . . . so part of our income goes for food, clothing, shelter, and also for entertainment . . . this expression of self-love is good and holy.”
He notes that our money is also used to build up our communities. The portion of our money that goes to pay taxes is used “to build highways, pay teachers’ salaries and patch up the potholes in the street.” And part of it supports the elderly and the needy. “Part of you puts food on the plate of some aged man or woman or helps pay the rent of an elderly person.” By means of tax withholding “you are able to put flesh on the words that Jesus speaks about seeing him in those who are in need.”
Finally, we bless others and also feel good in return when we choose to use some of our money in giving to people we love and also donating to causes that are dear to our hearts. He adds that whenever we give a gift of money we are saying, “This is my body . . . this is me . . . this is my love.”
Giving expands faith and trust.
By sharing, we show that we live with a spirit of abundance and not a fearful spirit of hoarding. In his book, Living Faith, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter addresses this very matter in a personal way:
“Many people my age have cautionary phrases deeply ingrained in us: ‘A penny saved is a penny earned.’ ‘Waste not, want not.’ ‘Haste makes waste.’” Consequently, he concludes that many people live cautiously, hesitantly, and timidly. “Most of us still want to be sure we don’t give away too much, so we always parcel out a little at a time, making sure we hold back more than we might need,” he wrote.
There is a down side to this mentality. Carter noted that we underestimate the gifts God has given us. He urged people to give generously so that faith and trust are expanded. “We have to remember that our lives will become shrunken if we only act from a cautious sense of duty. It is the reaching, the inspiration, the extra commitment that provide the foundation for a full and gratifying life.”
Giving is a spiritual response to material needs.
Rabbi Israel Salanter (1810-1883) wisely taught: “A person should be more concerned with spiritual than with material matters, but another person’s material welfare is his own spiritual concern.”
Similarly, the Russian Orthodox theologian Nikolai Berdyaev (1874-1948) wrote: “The question of bread for myself is a material question, but the question of bread for my neighbor is a spiritual question.”
Giving returns blessings to the giver.
This is something clearly taught by Jesus: “If you give to others, you will be given a full amount in return. It will be packed down, shaken together, and spilling over into your lap. The way you treat others is the way you will be treated” (Luke 6:38). Similarly, Paul wrote: “Remember this saying, ‘A few seeds make a small harvest, but a lot of seeds make a big harvest’” (2 Corinthians 9:6). The same teaching is found in Ecclesiastes 11:1: “Be generous, and someday you will be rewarded.”
While the specific reward or blessing is not stated, what is identified is a spiritual law of reciprocity—that generosity and kindness given always return to us in some way. St. Francis of Assisi reminds us that “it is in giving that we receive.”
Victor M. Parachin is a freelance writer in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Ways You Can Give
1. Buy breakfast for teachers at a school near you or snacks for a local high school sports team.
2. Pay for the person behind you in line at a coffee shop.
3. Find and give to organizations working in parts of the world that move you.
4. Make it a contest in your family to spend less in order to give more.
5. Let your kids pick nonprofits for the family to contribute to.
6. Fund a microloan through World Vision (worldvisionmicro.org).
7. Donate money from your work bonus or tax return.
8. Give a neighbor a gift card.
9. Purchase museum or amusement park passes for your minister’s family.
10. Donate clothes and coats out of your closet for people in need.