Growing up, I saw my mother give. She gave to the church, specific ministries, and individuals. Her consistent generosity formed in me an expectation, want, and desire to give as well. In our home, we give commission to our children. It is a form of allowance for being a part of our family that encourages participation in chores and behavior that characterizes our family. Thanks to the ideas of Dave Ramsey, at the end of each week, their commission is divided up into three jars: spending, saving, and giving. I often get the “why” question from our boys about giving. But the answer is simple, we give because God gives us everything, including the grace of Christ. We give in response to this greatest gift of life, new life, and out of compassion for others.
Even though I have been formed in this way, giving is not easy. It creates the need for intentional discernment, consistent conversation with my husband about priorities, and faithful tracking of finances. Then, there is the issue of sacrifice. How is my giving a sacrificial act of discipline and formation in relationship with God and others? The Bible has many reminders and encouragement about giving sacrificially. Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus comes to mind in Luke 19. After Jesus comes to his house, Zacchaeus is filled with repentance for the way he has cheated others. His response is this: “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Zacchaeus gives out of repentance and the need for salvation. Jesus replies, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” So often, we feel the need to give because of the needs of the church, world, or even individuals in our lives. Giving in Jesus’ name becomes formational for us spiritually when we give sacrificially and generously out of thanksgiving and relationship with God.
This week, I had the privilege once again of learning from Rev. Jonathan Grace, who came to our church and preached about his ministry with homeless neighbors last fall. He taught me that when we give as an act of justice for others, we not only meet the immediate needs of people, but we are invited to give in such a way that empowers people to live into the new life and transformation given to them by God. Finally, our generosity toward others is at its height when it breaks down the walls of injustice and helps the stories of witness and transformation be told. Giving generously breaks down walls and transforms the world.
This is what powerful and sacrificial giving does in this season of Lent. May we know the power of the Holy Spirit that forms us into generous and cheerful givers out of the mercy of the one who loves us and loves all the people of the world.
Grace and peace,