I love the story in Luke where Jesus was watching the offering box as people gave. Many people gave large amounts and people took notice. Then there was a widow woman who walked up. She grabbed two small coins and put them in the offering. Jesus exclaimed that this poor widow had given more than everyone else. Confused, the disciples wondered how. Jesus then explained that others gave out of their abundance, but she gave from her need. She didn’t find an excuse not to give because she was generous.
God loves it when we learn to give generously. I say “learn” because for most of us, it’s not natural to be generous. We’ve worked hard for our money and value it, but that is often what makes us stingy. When we are stingy, we forget that God is our source of income. We think of ourselves as the provider and therefore want to only give when we have left over money. But if we view God as our provider, we see the money as His and are free to give it away.
Deuteronomy 15:10 says, “Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers GOD, your God’s, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures” (MSG). When we give generously, it triggers God’s blessing in every area of our life. It tells God that you no longer see yourself as the source of your income, and that means He can trust you with more.
In Luke 6:38, Jesus put it this way, “Give and it shall be given unto you.” He went on to say that the same measure you use to give, will be used to give back to you. When we are generous, God is generous. You don’t have to have a lot to give a lot in God’s eyes. He can take a small gift and multiply it so there’s left overs (see the boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish). We have to get out of the scarcity mindset and into the abundant one. Give freely and spontaneously. It’s not your money anyway – it’s God’s!
I’m a proponent of paying it forward. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, it’s that you do good deeds for others, especially those who can’t pay you back. Instead of them paying you back, you ask them to do something good for someone else when they have the ability. I’ve been the recipient of many of these deeds growing up. I had never heard of the concept of paying it forward until one couple who blessed me tremendously told me I could pay them back by doing something for someone else one day.
I’ve never forgotten what they did, and have tried to be generous to others as a result. What they did was plant a seed of generosity into my life, and over time that seed has become a tree. When you think of an orange seed, it doesn’t just produce an orange. It produces a tree capable of producing many seasons of oranges that are capable themselves of many trees. Seeds are not a one for one thing. They’re a one for many thing. They take root, grow and continuously produce.
Proverbs 11:30 says, “The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life” (NLT). The writer knew about paying it forward all those centuries ago. He understood that when you bless those who can’t pay you back, you plant seeds that grow into trees and they become a tree of life. Most all of us need help at some point in our lives when we are incapable of paying it back. Don’t turn away the seeds that someone else wants to plant into your life. One day, that tree they planted will be needed to produce for someone else.
This time of year, there’s one question that gets asked every day, “What are you getting for Christmas?” We have kids make lists of everything they want and then have them send it to Santa. Or we take them to the mall to have them sit on Santa’s knee so they can tell him in person. Somehow, we’ve taken a holiday that was about giving and have turned it into holiday about getting. What if we started asking people, “What are you giving this year?”
As I watched a friend give a Christmas party with gifts, games, food and fun to a hundred under privileged kids, the scripture that says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” came to mind. I watched her hand each child a gift they had wanted and their parents probably couldn’t afford. I think her smile was larger than any child’s because she was the one giving. That’s what this season, and I think this life is all about. Giving.
In the beginning, God gave man he breath of life. He gave us everything we need to survive. Millennia later, He gave His only begotten Son to us so that we might have eternal life. When He was born, the wise men gave Him gifts. These gifts were sacrificial. They cost these men not just their money, but their time and effort as well to deliver them. That night in Bethlehem, they learned the blessing of giving.
This season, don’t let it be about getting. Take time to enjoy the giving. Look beyond your own family and give to someone else in need. You never know what a blessing it will be to them. When you see what your obedience does for others, you will find your own blessing. Luke 6:38 says, “Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands — all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you” (GNB). This Christmas, give generously.
At the ReWrite Conference I attended this past weekend, Crystal Paine from Money Saving Mom blog spoke. She shared lots of great insight into writing and growing an audience. While I took notes on all of it, one thing she said resonated with me and I’d put on a plaque if I could. She said, “Live simply so you can give generously.” Those words weren’t just a catch phrase from her either. She donated all the proceeds from her last book to build a shelter for 160 mother’s and children in the Dominican Republic.
It’s crazy how all the little things we spend money on add up each week, month and year. I think about a convenience store run I made this week for junk food. I walked out with a bag full of goodies and spent $12. Imagine if I did that once a week. That would be $48 a month or $624 a year. I could feed an orphan in Haiti 2 meals a day for almost two years with just what I spent on junk food in one year. What I spend on junk food in a week could feed that child something nutritious for almost two weeks.
I’m not living simply, I’m simply living. There are so many other ways to look at this. What about the time I spend in front of the TV or on a device playing games? I easily spend an hour a day doing that. What if I spent that hour investing in someone else’s life who needs a mentor? What kind of difference would that make in both of our lives? What if I spent it at the nursing home being a friend to the elderly who’s family rarely comes to see them? I wonder how our quality of life would improve. What if I volunteered as a Big Bother for a kid who needs guidance? If I was able to change the trajectory of one life, it would be worth it.
When I think of that phrase, I imagine so many possibilities. So many ways I could give generously. Then reality sets in. I don’t want to give up my Kit Kat and Coke. I love playing Minion Rush to give my mind a break. When the need for helping an orphan arises, I’ll say,”I can’t this month.” When someone needs my attention, I’ll say, “I don’t have time.” When an organization looks for volunteers, I’ll say, “I’m booked. Maybe next month.” It’s easier to live in abundance than it is to live simply. It’s easier to make an excuse than an effort. An orphan goes hungry. A kid grows up without a mentor they can look up to. Other’s lives are affected, but not mine.
I don’t want to affect my own life. I’m comfortable if I don’t think about the impact I could have on someone else if I could give generously. All of a sudden living simply is too hard. I’ll console myself that I go to church, put money in the offering plate and help out minimally. I’ll tell myself that I’m a good person and everything is fine. The truth is that I have RYRS. That’s Rich Young Ruler Syndrome. I tell God that I’ve kept His commandments since I was a child. When He asks me to live simply and give generously, I walk away sad because I have lots of things I’d rather not give up.
He asked me to come follow Him and instead I’m walking back into the life I told Him I was willing to give up. When push came to shove, I couldn’t do it. An orphan went hungry. A wayward child went to jail a few years later. Someone’s grandparent died alone. I had the power. I had the choice, but I walked away because I wasn’t willing to let go of the little things keeping me from living simply and giving generously. I wonder how that conversation will go when I stand before God and He asks what I did with what He supplied. How will your conversation with God go?