I wanted to show some kindness to the family that had taken in my Peace Corps daughter during her first months in the Dominican Republic. As I looked around at their humble surroundings, I felt a compliment on their good taste in art was in order.
“Don’t say that again, Mom.”
“Why not? It’s a nice picture.”
“It’s their favorite picture, and they will give it to you.”
I was completely taken aback by this cultural revelation, this desire to please a guest by offering to give a prized possession. It made me think of my own generosity.
I remember hearing Clement Stone, that great Chicago philanthropist, talk about the power of giving. His mantra was, “Give until it hurts, and then give some more.” I was just a teenager at the time, and I wondered what prompted this strange request. Today I realize he was asking to not just give from my abundance, but to give so I noticed, so I felt it personally, until it meant something to me.
Tim Kaine, the former senator from Virginia, tells about his interaction with a priest in Honduras in the early 1980s. Kaine was critical of the priest taking gifts of food from the poor people of the village. However, the priest reminded him that part of being human was the desire to give. To be able to give showed how much they cared, how much you mean to them. If you refused their gift because of their poverty, you stripped them of their humanity.
This is so similar to the story of the widow’s offering in Mark 12:41-44. While others gave from their abundance, she gave everything she had. Don’t you wonder why the disciples didn’t run up and stop her or question Jesus why He didn’t intervene? Perhaps it was because Jesus knew she had to give, she wanted to show God how much she cared, how much He meant to her.
That reminded me of a story about a Lutheran pastor whose Board of Elders informed him he wouldn’t be receiving a raise that year. However, they would excuse him from his yearly offerings. The pastor was incensed. He could accept the fact he wouldn’t receive the raise. On the other hand, he chided them with words that they would never forget: “How dare you take away my privilege and joy of giving back to the Lord!”
I like to give meaningful gifts. At different points in our life we have had varied amounts of time, talents, or treasures. Later in our ministry we were more monetarily blessed, though our lives were often stretched to the limits on time. At that point, my husband would say that the easiest thing for him to do for someone was to write a check. But if they asked for his time, then he knew he was really giving.
Now that we are retired, our available time is more abundant, though we still guard our hours and days so that they involve meaningful tasks, things we enjoy doing. We are protective of our gift of time.
God knows all about giving. He smiles at my joyful giving. He knows when I am giving from my heart. He knows when I’m giving until it hurts and then I press forward to give even more.
Because God is the ultimate gift giver. All good gifts come from Him. He knows what I need and generously pours out from His abundance, pressed down and overflowing (Luke 6:38).
And He knows how to give until it hurts. He gave all He had. He did that when He gave His only Son to die in my place. It hurt! He felt it! He did it because I needed it. And He did it because of how much I mean to Him.
Now I ask you, who wouldn’t want that ultimate gift… forgiveness, eternal life, peace, love?
And what joy there is when we actually receive it, right from His heart to ours!