July 4, 2007

No boredom in this life

The practice of generous giving is difficult for a person with Scottish blood in their veins. At least that could be my excuse. More true is the simple fact that often I don’t trust God to supply all my needs when I need something, so hoard whatever stuff I have, “just in case” I need it.

But I’m learning. Last weekend I gave away a lot of my time, and with the size of my to-do list, this was a sacrifice. I did it for the Lord and for my family. Monday (a holiday) and yesterday, He gave it back to me. Those two days seemed to have double the normal hours, and I caught up all that I felt I’d neglected on the weekend.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 pokes at my heart every time I read it. It says, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”

God wants generous, spontaneous, willing, unpressured giving. Not out of guilt or a sense of duty. Not out of the expectations of others. Not with a tight-lipped sense of being deprived.

It happens. Last week, He put on my heart to bake a birthday cake and deliver it, late at night when I’d rather be in bed. It was a spontaneous act and I knew it was a God-thing. The day after that, someone expressed a need without any expectations from me. God put on my heart to do something about it. No pressure. Giving is easy when God is in it.

There is a totally different sense when the impulse or pressure comes from another source. When people expect something from me, or take it for granted that “good old Elsie” will do it, I feel uncomfortable, put upon. It isn’t that I don’t want to accommodate, but that God isn’t telling me to, or if He is, I cannot hear Him alongside those loud demands.

When that happens, I resist, feel guilty, and struggle with the call of God to be generous, and the words in this passage that say it should be a heart-felt, no-pressure, joyful act.

The other confusion is from Jesus’ words about “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.” Does that mean that I should be generous to everyone who expects it? To everyone that holds out their hand?

I don’t think so. I read this again and in context. Jesus is talking about non-retaliation, not generosity. He is not asking that I to give to every hand that is held out, or that I look the other way when someone does wrong or is aggressive. He is taking about how to behave if someone tries to do me wrong. My role is not to fight back with demands about my personal rights. Situations like this are not about my rights.

There is a point to all this. Someone is expecting me to fork over all the time, without any appreciation or concern that they are putting a burden on me. My inner fight involves my thrifty nature, selfishness, a sense of duty, and verses like “God is able to make all grace abound toward you . . . .”

Last night I heard another idea: What is best for this person? Instead of being anxious about giving or not giving and the pressures put on me, this isn’t about me. God says to be generous, yet also not to “cast your pearls” before anyone who simply gobbles them up. If my generosity makes the recipient sin all the more, then it is not generosity but enablement.

As I toss about all this and seek His will to know what to do, again I have to say that this Christian life is often complicated, but never boring.

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