God so loved the world that He gave… – John 3:16
Giving Tuesday (also known as #GivingTuesday) was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a response to commercialization and consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving season. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday grabbing all the attention, it seemed appropriate to turn the tables and encourage people to give on Tuesday. It’s an opportunity to channel the generous spirit of the holiday season to inspire action around charitable giving, globally. Giving Tuesday has been praised as an antidote to consumer culture and as a way for people to give back.
Giving is both underrated and overrated in this country. It’s underrated because we don’t do enough of it. It’s overrated because it shouldn’t be a big deal. It should be a natural thing. As Christians, giving should be a big part of who we are. We are giving people. We get it from the One we follow. Jesus gave everything. Jesus was God, giving. And once you have received from God, the spiritual reaction is to want others to receive what you have received. We call it grace turned outward. This is such a vital part of salvation that if you do not have any desire for people to have what you have, chances are, you don’t have anything at all.
But here’s the hard part about giving. We live in a consumer society where keeping up is the name of the game. If you’re a teenager and you don’t have an up-to-date cell phone, you won’t be able to communicate with your friends. If you’re in business and you don’t have an up-to-date computer, you can’t keep up with the competition. If you want to take part in society — if you want to have and be a friend — there are certain expectations as to dress, neighborhood, schools, cars, barbecues, lawnmowers, televisions, etc., etc.. All of this focuses us on getting and keeping up, not on giving.
I will be the first to say I am not a very good giver. I am so used to taking that I feel like I am owed something, not that I owe something in return. Giving back is not a knee-jerk reaction for me. You can hammer that reflex all you want and that leg will just sit there.
I am so well-acquainted with the lies of giving that I will simply list them below. They are self-explanatory. Getting out of them is a lot harder than listing them.
Give when you have enough to absorb it.
Give when it won’t hurt so much.
Give someday in the future.
Only people with the gift of giving need to give.
The gift of giving is precluded by the gift of making money.
Giving is only about money.
Give when you can receive maximum recognition.
The error behind each of these lies is so obvious that I do not need to extrapolate. Meditate on any one of these and you will find your vulnerability — your neediness or your greed.
Besides, there is one little story that Jesus told that reveals the lie in all of these, and that is the story of the widow’s mite. It was an observation Jesus made that He turned into a teachable moment for his disciples.
He observed a widow leaving a gift at the temple. It was a tiny monetary amount — maybe the equivalent today of a buck or two — but Jesus said, in comparison to others around her who were giving far greater amounts, that she gave more. She gave more, because she gave all she had. She didn’t wait; she gave because she was a giving person. She was appreciative of what had been given to her. She realized everything she had came from God, so might as well give it back. And that’s the right kind of giving: give without expecting anything in return. The secret to giving is knowing what we have received from God.
May we become giving people — giving of our time; our attention; our concern; our sweat, and yes, our money, too.
It is more blessed to give than to receive. – Jesus (Acts 20:35)