Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:1-4
Since it's New Years Eve and the "R word" is on everyone's mind, I want to tell you about a resolution I made last year. It wasn’t my New Years resolution (which, if you recall, was to wear more striped socks). I’m not sure when I made this resolution, but I guess it was about a year ago. My resolution was to “give” whenever asked. The scripture that called me to this conclusion was Matthew 5:42:
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Of course, there are also other scriptural references on giving, like 2 Corinthians 8:11, Matthew 5:40, Proverbs 14:31, James 1:27, 1 John 3:17, Matthew 19:21, Proverbs 22:16, and of course, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, which cuts through the chase and gets right to the heart of my problem:
Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
In our family, Dirt handles the finances. This means that he pays all the bills, he worries about interest rates, remortgaging, gas prices, and our family’s giving. I have always rested in the fact that Dirt is a cheerful giver. Mainly because I haven’t been. I used to challenge him about giving too much and I would roll my eyes when he made statements like, “the more we make, the more we can give”. Seriously, that statement worked my nerves, cause I was always thinking, “the more we make, the more we can buy (for ourselves)!”.
Whenever I would hear “God loves a cheerful giver”, I’d just sort of latch onto Dirt; clearly if I’m married to someone who cheerfully gives
So let’s circle back to my resolution. My self-imposed rules were simple: I would give whenever asked, it could be a quarter, a dollar, it didn’t matter. There was no specific dollar amount or percentage of income associated with my giving. I didn’t even have to be cheerful about it. Hey, it's important to set the bar low sometimes.
Editorial side note: I should mention that while my resolution was specifically focused on financial giving, there are many other ways to give. Giving your time or prayer to someone or something is probably even more important than financial giving.
Initially I was anxious to try out my new giving strategy, “initially”, like as in “on the first day”. After that I may’ve tried to avoid situations where I would encounter requests (like tossing out a few of those mailers without opening them; cause if you don’t open the mail from Samaritan’s Purse, then they can’t actually ask you for anything). Then there were giving situations that I wrestled with, like the dirty guy on the side of the road playing guitar with his guitar case open – was that officially a request?
But then I got into the habit of giving, and something strange happened…I began to enjoy it. I started seeking out ways to give, I became interested in the plight of others, and I even started reminding cashiers to ask me if I wanted to contribute to whatever the checkout charity was! The Lord transformed me into a cheerful giver!
I’m not suggesting that you need to do this, I’m just saying that if you did, you might find it to be an awesome experience. Saying “yes”, I learned, is actually easier than saying “no, sorry, I don’t have any cash on me” and it feels so much better.
I can’t say that there aren’t days where that stupid Salvation Army bucket has sucked the last dollar out of my purse and caused me to go without my afternoon soda, but in the big scheme of things, Nutrasweet isn’t good for me anyway. Plus I remember the story of the widow, and that makes me feel all warm and self-righteous inside.
Oh, and Dirt…he couldn’t be happier about this transformation. Stinkin’ Dirt.