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Wednesday Word: Rethinking Giving

September 30, 2020 | Jay T. Smith

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. (Matthew 10:8 NASB95)

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28 NASB95)

It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:26-28 NASB95)

Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:30 NASB95)

Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. (Luke 6:38 NASB95)

But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you. (Luke 11:41NASB95)

In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 NASB95)

Rethinking Giving…

One of the most important words that Jesus uses in His teachings is δίδωμι or “give.” From the time we are children to the time we are adults, we struggle with the idea of giving. We want to hold on to what we have, and we want to accumulate even more. Indeed, if we allow our children’s “wants” to dominate their world they easily become selfish—rarely wanting to share, and almost never wanting to give.

Even as adults we have a hard time giving. We say things like, “I worked hard for that money, and I’m not giving any of it to anyone!” Or possibly, “Give her something? She doesn’t ‘deserve’ to be given anything!” Both statements reflect manners and dispositions we learn as children and hold onto as adults. Both attitudes, that of unlimited “wants” and the “earning” of a gift, should be offensive to us. They feed the concepts of greed, gluttony, lust, and covetousness.

Today, these concepts seem a bit archaic to us, yet they are important. You see, each of these attitudes chips away at our souls until we become bitter, hoarding what we have and jealous of what others have. The unwillingness to share or to give is a natural barrier to friendship and other important relations with others. Nevertheless, human beings constantly struggle with these issues.

Giving Results in Receiving for the Giver

Jesus sought to reframe the entire issue of what brings true joy and love into a person’s life in terms of giving. To summarize his teaching in a nutshell: “It is only when you give from your heart, that you receive true joy and satisfaction.” It is when you give without condition to those who are struggling, hurting, and alone that your “gift” can be a life changer. It is when you give to a friend who is downcast that you sense a true fulfillment in your own life. It is when you give bits of your own life—in time, skills, smiles, hugs, and words of encouragement—that you change not only someone else’s day, or even world, but also your own. Jesus said, “Give and it will be given unto you, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing!” (Luke 6:38 JSV)

Giving Contains the Seeds of Reward

It is easy to give something to someone else when they deserve or earn it, but that is not true “giving.” That’s just a transaction or an exchange. A laborer receives wages for the work done. A child gets a cookie when he or she brushes the dog’s coat. But the gift is you. It is your time, your concern and care, your presence. Sometimes the gift is “help” on a task, or even money to help relieve a situation. But in giving the gift, there is no transaction between you and the other person; the transaction is between you and the Spirit of God as you are overwhelmed with joy and peace in seeing another person thrive. Giving contains the seeds of its own reward, which is far greater than money, prestige, or power. It is the fulfillment of the vocation given to each of us from the founding of the world: to love one another. It is a vocation given to us by the Creator of all that is.

The Gift is You

As we near the end of this post, let me make something clear: giving does not always necessitate money or material things. Sometimes it may, as you assess the situation and figure out how best to help someone. But 95% of the time, material things are the least important part of the gift. The true gift is you—your time, your effort, and your care. One of the trenchant phrases of our time is, “We can’t just throw money at a problem and expect to solve it.” Money with no heart behind is not a gift; it’s a donation, and donations are often misused or even abused. You are the gift.

Be the gift, and give you—your time and your care to others. That gift they will never forget, and maybe, just maybe, they will pass it on.

Jay T. Smith

President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics

Dr. Jay Smith leads the Yellowstone Theological Institute as its president. Dr. Smith has served as minister of youth, music and as senior […]

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