Think you’re too poor to make a difference in some else’s life? You may be richer than you imagine, says Bryce Emley.
We’ve all struggled with moral issues at one time or another: lust, lying, substance abuse, pride and prejudice. However, a less-considered ethical issue is to do with our wealth—or more precisely, the sharing of it. The biggest challenge for some people isn’t morality but generosity. It begins at home, with charity: How much should a person give to charity, the poor, your church or just to someone in need right now? This challenge is especially real in light of the economic times of the past few years.
A Bible story that is often mentioned in this regard is commonly referred to as “The Widow’s Mite.” In the story, actually observed by Christ and His disciples, a poor widow quietly gives the temple her last two coins, whereas the wealthy people ostentatiously hand over large sums from their even larger purses. Jesus commended the widow, saying that she put more money in the treasury than all the others because “they all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” (see Mark 12:44).
This example becomes a bit more complicated when you have three kids and a mortgage, but the principle remains. But it isn’t about giving away money you don’t have. It’s about giving deeply from what you do have.
The Meaning Of Money
So much of our culture has glorified the dollar beyond its monetary value. Money is no longer simply a medium of exchange, a representation of the physical things it can buy. Rather, money is representative of the status it gives.
It’s true that God wants us to return tithes and offerings. However, there’s more involved than simply acknowledging that God is the Owner of everything we possess. Some people think that giving a certain amount of their earnings qualifies them as being good Christians. But it isn’t the money that counts. It’s the giving itself.
The Bible has many significant things to say about money, but none of them call for us to give more than what we’re able.
It’s OK if you can’t afford to give hundreds or thousands of dollars. If you don’t have it, God doesn’t expect you to give it. In fact the apostle Paul said, “If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12).
Furthermore, there are other ways we can give besides writing cheques to the church or handing out cash to homeless people.
Acts Of Giving
Paul was a devoutly religious person who kept busy doing things—things that even got him thrown into prison on a number of occasions. He certainly wasn’t wealthy. To the contrary, he often worked at his trade of tent making in order to support himself rather than burden the churches he raised up and served.
His ultimate goal was to do God’s work here on earth, which meant travelling through Gentile countries, building churches, praying with people and encouraging the new followers of Christ in any way he could. He was one of the most benevolent Christians imaginable, yet his typical gift wasn’t money. It was time, energy and effort.
And following are some ways you can give that don’t involve money.
Everyone has just 24 hours a day. Most of us have jobs and family commitments that take up to 10 hours a day. We have to eat and sleep, which takes up another eight or 10 hours. That leaves four hours a day on weekdays and several hours a day on weekends to do other things. And we can give away some of those hours! Often, with our discretionary time being so limited, giving it away is a more meaningful act to the receiver than money.
What makes giving your time to others so valuable is that you can’t ever have it back. If you have a job and you give away money, you’ll soon be replacing it. But if you spend time helping others, there’s no way you’ll ever get that time back.
However, you probably won’t want it back because of the satisfaction you gain from helping another person.
So instead of just writing a cheque, consider volunteering in a situation that suits your talent or interest. Volunteer workers can be hard to come by, so nearly any shelter, charity, church or other nonprofit organisation will have a need you can fill. All you have to do is offer!
You can also recruit others to help you take on a cause you feel passionately about. Ask those around you how you can help them, or if you see a need, fill it without asking. You could:
- Cook dinner for a neighbourhood elderly person or couple, and eat it with them if they are alone.
- Do some work for them, especially around the house, that you know is difficult for them to do.
- Try to use your skills or trade: fix someone’s car for free; sew someone a quilt for winter; repaint someone’s house.
Use What You Already Have
There are other ways to give that don’t involve money. If you own some equipment that another person could use but doesn’t have, try lending it to them. Or personally use it yourself to help them.
This often goes hand-in-hand with a donation of time. For example, if your neighbour doesn’t have a lawnmower (or if he has one that needs repairs he can’t afford), you can use your lawnmower to cut his grass.
If you have a van or minibus, try contacting a charitable organisation to see about driving for them. If you have tools for construction, put them to use by helping someone who needs renovation on their home.
Donate What You Don’t Need
Donating can mean taking last winter’s fashions to an op shop, but try personalising the gift.
Look around for things you have that could be better used by someone else. For example, look through your coat closet. Do you have a jumper or jacket that you wear once a year at most? When the voice in your head tells you that you’ll probably want to wear it next week, think about how much better it would be if someone else could wear it every day in order to stay warm.
Giving back to God is important, especially when you consider that you are merely acting as His agent, entrusted by Him with time and opportunities, abilities and possessions, and the blessings of the earth and its resources.
But as Jesus reminded us, we need to also remember the “more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23), practicing all of them.
The Benefit Of Giving Back To God
Giving will enrich your life. It isn’t just that the church needs money to reach out to the world’s needs but that you need to give for your own spiritual growth. Jesus said, “ ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ ” (Acts 20:35). And the apostle Paul told how the Macedonian Christians, though financially stretched, “gave themselves first to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5) in order to help finance His work.
Giving is part of a biblical lifestyle, and it can revolutionise you spiritually and financially. Evangelist Billy Graham said, “God gave us two hands, one to receive and one to give. We are not cisterns made for hoarding but channels made for sharing.”God’s work done in God’s way will bring God’s blessing. “
Giving isn’t just about the church raising money. It’s God’s way of raising Christians who are responsible to Him and for Him. They will love Him supremely, thank Him meaningfully and give to Him sacrificially.
Many Christians find joy in returning to God their tithe—one-tenth of all that He gives them. God has promised, “ ‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’ ” (Malachi 3:10).