One of the ways we can grow in our faith is through charity. Depending on where you come from, this topic can be rather an uncomfortable one, but I believe one of the ways we grow is by stepping into things which may challenge or change us. Growth comes with costs, albeit, not always in a way which will costs a person their wallet, but in time, attention, and eventually, a part of themselves.
For years, this concept was alien to me. Growing up, my family didn’t have much. We got by, but just barely. I had a roof over my head which meant a great deal to me. But we did struggle. Most of the clothes I wore were behind fashion a few years as we could only afford them when they went in garage sales. I didn’t care if I was considered cool in school so this never bothered me, but I did get some comments on the things I wore. When I heard other kids talk about traveling out of the country or across the states I did become jealous though wondering if I would ever get to do so myself. My family rarely took a vacation. We ate a lot of beans, which was a staple at our house since it provided the right proteins and nutrients at considerable savings, so we didn’t dine extravagantly.
Still, it could have been considerably worse. I knew this having been in the downtown area of Oklahoma City seeing people living under bridges and living in cardboard boxes. My parents didn’t have much, but I do remember a couple Christmases where they did provide meals for families who had hardly anything. Even when we do not have much, we can still give something to others.
To give to others is another big part of those who follow Jesus. It may feel awkward at first, but once learned becomes more natural. It may even, dare I say it, become a habit and even joyful.
“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc, is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.-C.S. Lewis
I once read Jack didn’t just give a little. Some who have studied his life say he did poorly in his own personal finances. Do you know why? Jack did something other people rarely hear about, even in the church setting: he gave the reverse tithe. This means he lived on 10 percent of his income and gave away 90 percent.
If you are reading this and freaking out right now, don’t run off just yet. I’m not asking you to do that. But I will say that when I read this, I wondered, “What would cause a person to do that?”
Jesus spoke about charity all the time. I don’t think He gave it as a sort of rule, rather, I think He was trying to show us not only do those we give to benefit from it, we also will.
Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit, I was in prison and you came to me.-Matthew 25:34-36 The Message
We may ask Jesus when we did these things. His response: I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.
It’s true, that everything you own will not go with you when you leave earth. There is not graveside for the things we own. There have been people who have been close to their own death who regretted not having more things, but wished they spent more time with others.
When we give our finances it shows that money is a tool, not something we strive for. When we give of our time we show the person we spend it with that they have value and are worth spending time with. When we give someone a meal we are basically saying that we care for them, they matter, and we want only the best for their well being.
I’ve served some of the homeless people in the downtown area. I think there is a stigma that is associated with the homeless. People are people. Some of them have made bad decisions, but not all of them. To throw one group of people into a category diminishes their humanity. I’m not going to do that. I’ve served those without homes and most of them are genuinely just thankful that someone else sees them as a person.
I’ve helped random strangers when the moment warranted it. I won’t go into specifics, but it helped me to grow closer to God because it brought me out of my comfort zone. I’ve also helped people I know in ways I knew was God’s design to do so.
One of my favorite ways to give is without the person even knowing it was me. Jesus spoke about not letting your left hand know what your right hand was doing. I don’t think He was talking about magic tricks, but about wanting to get praised for doing the right thing. Jesus said that those who give and stand up waiting to get celebrated already receive their reward here. He also speaks about doing things in secret where only God sees it and, to me, there is something sacred about doing those sorts of things without everyone else even knowing about it.
Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.-Mother Teresa
I get it, people are ‘sticky’. It’s not always easy to help someone because of who they are, but God didn’t say it would always be easy. I know this will probably make some cringe, but I have to say it: go get sticky!
The next part I’m about to say isn’t intended for those who already give, serve others, and help however they can. If you are a follower and already do these things, then I am so thankful for you!
I think what the world needs less is our opinions and more of our love and that comes by going where others fear to. In the first century, those who called themselves followers went towards the wreck of human suffering, not away from it. When plagues came, people left their families because they were afraid they would get what they had, but Christians showed up and actually helped them, sometimes getting the diseases themselves. In today’s world, we have ways to prevent this, but back then they did not and they still helped others.
In our modern society, Christians have become known less by what they love and more by what they stand for. I don’t think Jesus ever intended it to be like this. I know this may sound crazy, but hear me out. What if those who called themselves believers actually lived out charity? The world can’t dismiss what true love does when it is shown and lived out in front of them. In fact, there is something very appealing about those who give like this. The world doesn’t see this enough.
As in all things, the motives of our heart is so important. If one is not giving with the right intention then they miss out on the good of being charitable.
What Does Charity Do For You?
A few years ago, Shannon’s uncle David lost his home in a tornado. The day it happened he was with me. He was completely floored. He looked over at me while we watched the news and said, “I think my house is gone.”
The next morning, most of our family was sleeping off the nasty night before. I woke early as I normally do and David was in the kitchen. “Do you want to get something to eat?”
We drove all the way into Yukon where the only place open was a Braums. As we ate, David said he didn’t know what he was going to do.
“I don’t know how, but David, you are not alone. God is going to show up in a big way somehow. He may even blow your hair back,” I said to him in faith.
“I hope so,” I have nothing left.
David wasn’t’ a Christian. He’d been to church many times, but nothing ever stuck.
That weekend, Shannon and I served at our church and the campus pastor walked up to her and asked her what David needed. He didn’t even go to our church, but our church gave him all kinds of help. Clothes, furniture, and money. Our church wasn’t the only either. A guy showed up to David’s new home later and built him a front and back porch for his place.
“I don’t know why these people are helping me,” said David. “I can never repay them.”
“They don’t want anything from you, David,” I said to him softly.
“But who are these people?”
“They are Christians.”
“I’ve met Christians before. They don’t act like this,” he said with a note of experience.
“No, I’m afraid you haven’t. This is how they are supposed to act,” is all I could say.
A year before his death, David gave his life to Jesus. He had stage 4 cancer, but his last year was his best. We grew closer than before and every time he would see me, David called me ‘brother’.
It wasn’t the preachers from their pulpits, or the messages the church proclaimed that won David’s heart, it was the irrational generosity from those who love Christ and mirror the giving spirit. Love knocked the walls down for David and having seen this first hand, he could not dismiss the people’s response to him.
Love changes hearts more than opinions ever will.
For us, seeing the way David responded to those acts of charity showed me how much it has an impact on the one who receives it, but for the person who gives it allows them to be the answer to a prayer someone needs so desperately. And something happens when we realize we are not our own, but we are meant to share our lives with others as we can, while we can, whenever we can. Jesus said we would need to lose our lives to find it and I know after many years of doing so myself, I have gained more when I lost myself. I gave up my selfishness to allow love to fill into places within my life I never knew was possible.
This sort of love, charity, irrational generosity, never seems to allow the giver to run dry. That’s the beauty of becoming generous in all things: we eventually have others who start giving to us because this sort of love is contagious. Once a person starts pouring into others, then others are drawn toward them. Those who feel relationally poor become rich because a love like this knocks down the walls in other people’s hearts, some of which haven’t had love grace its door for a very long time.
Our lives are holy ground. None of us have as long as we think we do in order to reach out to help others who need it. I think what God wants from us is for us to take off our shoes and run towards the opportunities to help those who need it most, for our lives will never be measured by what we have, but our souls will be treasured by what we give. We cherish others with what we give to them. Greater love has no one ever given than to lay down their lives for their friends and this is the kind of life others will stand up for, honor, and it catches fire in the hearts of those who have been touched by a love so fierce nothing can contain it.
Miracles are waiting, just waiting, to be sprung into people’s lives.
And each of us is capable of living exceptional lives. The world needs daring people who will give away love like they are made of the stuff. Heaven is watching to see what we let loose into other people’s lives.
Charity is the antidote for pride and the cure for hatred, to truly give from the right motive means to lose the last foothold of independence from God.
Our lives will never be the same when we share them and neither will the ones whom we choose to give our love to.