This morning Pastor C. continued with stewardship, week two of four in her theme. Last week was about how we invest our time, whereby I was reminded not to take myself too seriously! Today’s focus was on giving freely of ourselves in the service of others. I think of giving generously as one side of the coin of givingness; receiving graciously is equally important.
Some people find it quite natural to give and give and give some more. My Grampy was a great example. He gave his youth to raising his step-siblings, sacrificing his own self-interests. He had a huge heart for children! He remained a man of humble means into old age but that never stopped him from giving generously. When he received a small increase to his monthly income stipend, he immediately raised my sister’s wages for cleaning his mobile home. He donated a treasured piece of religious art from among his meager possessions to my youth group just because I asked.
As a child, I never realized Grampy’s resources were limited because he was such a good giver. I felt secure in his love; I could ask him for anything. In that, he modeled a relationship with our heavenly father. God’s resources are limitless. He loves to give good gifts to His children. We should never be afraid to ask. God is — and God loves — a cheerful giver!
My childhood was steeped in giving. My mom inherited the giving gene. “Count your blessings,” she’d say, as she pedaled off with a loaf of homemade bread for ancient Edwin, the horseman, and his bedridden wife. She was always playing the Good Samaritan to shut-ins, the elderly, or downtrodden. Her example made a significant impression as she made a difference in our community, snakes and dogs notwithstanding.
I was fortunate to marry into a giving family, too. For the first few years, the Hubs and I survived largely on the generosity of his parents. His dad and mom gave us a starter house and a car, to boot. They made sure we were properly set up. The entire family pitched in, in one way or another. Their givingness was a safety net long before we were able to maintain a savings account.
But it was much later in life that I learned the most important lesson of givingness: generosity of spirit.
Giving with generosity of spirit is giving with no strings attached. Not a word about time or effort required or what it cost in other terms. No expectations for how it is used, even if it’s regifted. No concern for expressions of appreciation. When we give with generosity of spirit, it is done. Gone. Immediately forgotten. This may not always be easy (and I do catch myself from time to time!) but it is so worth it.
In receiving with generosity of spirit, we assume genuine, goodhearted intent of the other. We rest on the premise that the gift — whether beautifully wrapped and tied with a bow or a gently used hand-me-down, a casual comment or pointed remark, whatever it may be — is well-intentioned. It may not fit perfectly. We may not be particularly fond of it. But unless we know for certain otherwise, we are free to accept it in good faith. We honor the giver who has honored us. And with sincerity, we say thank you. Seriously. It is so freeing!
I enjoy writing personal notes of appreciation. I’m glad my mom was diligent in instilling the discipline. Although I tried to do the same for our chids, (“You can’t use it until you say thank you for it!”) I fear I was not nearly as successful but that is no longer my concern. I only know that handwritten notes are a small gift in return, a gracious way to close the giving loop.
As much as I enjoy writing thank you notes, I also enjoy receiving them. (Though generosity of spirit governs my expectations!) I place them alongside other cards and notes in a beautiful hand woven basket, a gift from an amazing Rwandan diplomat. When I recall her stories of struggle, fleeing Rwandan genocide only to encounter the evils of Idi Amin, the Butcher of Uganda, I cannot help but be thankful.
The basket serves as a visual reminder of our blessings as it fills to the brim with expressions of love. Periodically, I sort through and offer prayers of thanks for these richest of gifts: loving, caring, precious people. Only then does givingness come full circle, when we express appreciation to the Giver of All.
Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’ And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,
“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”
All of which reminds me to say: thank you for reading! In 2012, this blog got several thousand hits from 24 countries. Most were from the U.S., but also (in numerical order, with lots of ties) Italy, Germany, Turkey, Canada, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia, Jordan, South Korea Pakistan, India, Belize, the Netherlands, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico, Indonesia, Syria, Malaysia, Russia, Bulgaria and the Philippines. I get such a kick out of that! What a small world, eh?