1.24.2010

Giving Testimony


The earthquake in Haiti hit in the midst of me working morning, noon, and night for 12 days straight on a big proposal at work. And then I headed out to San Jose with my daughter to see my mom. And now I'm trying to catch up on almost a month's worth of putting things off to the back burner. So while I'd like to make a financial contribution, I simply haven't yet.

But I have been heartened to see such a spirit of generosity, particularly in a time of economic stress. Many have told me it was easy to give, because the images and reports from Haiti brought home that in fact we are very rich in this country, when scarcely a month ago we were all feeling much poorer than we once were.

Giving is talked about a lot in the Bible, and it is a shame that churches and Christians aren't more vocal about it. This past week, our small group studied the third chapter of the book of Proverbs, which is famous for its sayings about trusting God. I was struck by this verse about giving that was smack dab in the chapter: "Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce."

I'm no theologian, but at the very least this means that being generous is a facet of trusting God. Which seems obvious, given how many of our worries are either directly or indirectly related to money. And yet how often do we demonstrate our lack of trust in God in the way we manage our money? Or, said another way, how often do we consider money management a gateway to trusting God?

And, let me ask myself a more direct question: have I not made a financial contribution towards relief efforts in Haiti because I've been busy, or because I do not trust God? After all, I have written a lot of other checks this month, for school for Amy and the kids and for house repairs and for monthly bills and for health care; might it be that I feel I can't spare another check in support of Haiti?

I want to be careful to not represent that giving to Haiti, or to any one-time cause, is synonymous to being faithful with our money; or that the goal of giving is to corner God into giving us more back in return. It is easy for us to justify that one particular avenue for practicing giving relieves us of the ongoing burden of being generous in our spirits as part of our overall approach to life; and it is easy to claim God's promises to "fill our barns with plenty and our vats with wine" (a paraphrase of the verse right after the one I quoted above) in a me-first sort of way (i.e. that giving is about getting back more).

I think that, instead, we are called to give because we are called both to be like God, who gave us His only begotten Son, and to trust God, who may not always provide in material abundance but can be counted on to perfectly provide according to our need. Whether it is a one-time gift in response to a crisis, or an ongoing investment in a cause or organization that advances God's kingdom, our generosity is an unshakable part of our journey.

This is why churches and Christians should talk about, instruct on, and encourage giving. For if we cease to give, we cut ourselves off from a profound and necessary element of connecting to God and of representing His principles in this world. And, if that is the case, we and the world are poorer for it.

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