“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of Gods’ varied grace….” 1 Peter 4:10
My devotional reading today was on the book of Jonah, and I’m actually going to be teaching about that book in adult Sunday School in a few weeks … funny how God sends us these little messages, isn’t it? He knows just what we need at any given time. Anyway, the gist of the article was grace. God extended His grace to Jonah, even though he was a sulky and reluctant prophet. He saved him from the belly of the whale, he sent a plant to shade him … Jonah didn’t deserve those things. He tried to run from his calling. He wasn’t very appreciative of Gods’ care. The very worst thing about Jonah — although he accepted Gods’ grace, he was angry when God extended that same grace to the people Jonah hated, the Assyrians.
I think there’s a lesson in this. In the verse above, Peter calls us stewards of Gods’ grace. We’ve all received gifts. I know that I have certain talents, and I also have my health, a good bit of free time as a retiree, an adequate income. Since all these are gifts of Gods’ grace in my life, I need to share them willingly when I see a need. In fact, I should be excited when I can spread some of Gods’ grace around. Most of all, I should be excited to share the good news of the sacrifice of Christ for our sins. That’s truly amazing grace.
Unfortunately, I’m often like Jonah. I may be willing to share with those I love, or those I find deserving. I’m less willing to share with people I don’t know, don’t like or find unworthy in some way. Why should I serve them? They don’t deserve it and may not appreciate it. However, here’s the thing — it’s only grace because we don’t deserve it. If we could earn grace, we wouldn’t need God (or anyone else) to give it to us.
So today, let’s spread some grace around: lend a hand; forgive; bake some cupcakes for your neighbor; give up your place in line. You need it; I need it; everyone needs it, whether they know it or not.
Because I spent many years working for a hospital (as a buyer), I became interested in health issues. Many Christian virtues have a positive effect on our health. For example, patients who are prayed for do better after surgery than those who are not. Gratitude helps lift depression. Here’s what all found out about giving:
We all know giving helps others, whether we volunteer for organizations, offer emotional support to those around us or donate to charities. But studies show that giving is also good for the giver — boosting physical and mental health.
Studies find these health benefits associated with giving:
Yesterday I wrote about taking care of God’s stuff in a really simplistic manner. I even said that I didn’t want to get into a discussion about original sin, free will and the evil in this world. After I slept on it I thought, why not? Why not go into the reasons we have so much trouble with this subject?
Our free will got us in trouble from the start. It’s the Adam and Eve thing. God wanted us to be with him but to also be free in our decision. To freely love Him without any problems. So God created the evil (serpent) and the Tree of Life. We were to choose Him over the Tree. But that free will thing got in the way and Adam and Eve got curious…
When I was writing the blog yesterday I could almost hear everyone going “But…” I agree, this is a really hard thing to do. We need to take care of everything and everybody. Do we do that? No. And now more challenges have come our way; Puerto Rico, Houston, Florida and the evil that happened out in Las Vegas. These are large things that are happening. Many people are there, right now, to help. If I jumped on a plane to go help I don’t think I would have much to offer, but I would if I had the means to do it.
So we give money to the church or to an organization like Samaritan’s Purse to help. I’m not knocking that, I wouldn’t be able to go to the corners of the earth to help and they do. Do we give that magical ten percent? Some do and some don’t. It really doesn’t matter as long as we give.
But then, what about your neighbors? They weren’t effected by flood. But they have other needs. We need to be actively looking around at the needs that surround us. We need to be asking “Lord, what can I do?”.
In the Old Testament God made it a law that ten percent of the first-fruits should be tithed to Him. I have one of the scriptures up in the meme at the head of this blog. God wants us to test him. But I don’t think that he only means our income. Yes, we can give of our income and support our church, organizations like Samaritan’s Purse, the local christian radio station, the homeless shelter down the street; the list is endless. We also need to give of ourselves. Help our neighbors, friends and others through the needy times. Be there for them. Give them hope and encouragement. Pray for them and for all these other organizations that are the hands and feet of Jesus. Then we need to get up to join them.
Yup, I’m the one that said that. Stewardship is all about taking care of God’s Stuff. Oh, I know that a lot of people get bent about the 10% and the giving to the church. “Does it have to be 10%, and is that from the gross or the net?” I just shake my head… They don’t realize that Stewardship is about much more than giving to the church.
There are those people who give, and give generously, to the church, christian missions and other christian endeavors. I’m not going to put those people down in this blog. However, (here it comes, you think) if those same people think their work in God’s Kingdom is done BECAUSE they give generously then I’d have to say they are wrong. Let me start at the beginning, literally…
If you believe that God created this earth, then it’s all His. He made it, it belongs to Him. If you believe that God created humankind, then we’re all His, everyone of us. There is no getting around this. Think hard about it for a minute. Everything on this earth his His. EVERYTHING!!! This would include the animals, the trees and the sea. Everyone of us belong to Him. We owe every breath we take to our creator. I don’t want to get into a long discussion about original sin, free will and the evil that walks this earth. Those are, indeed, complications. That’s not where this blog is going. I want you to think simply. Go back and then come forward in time and you’ll see it. It’s all His.
We are called upon to take care of God’s stuff. So when you start thinking about money, that is only the beginning. We need to take care of ourselves since we were created by God. We need to take care of others since they were created by God. We need to take care of nature; the animals, trees, plants. We need to take care. Period. When we have taken care and God has blessed us we can only give Him the glory. That’s when the giving and the taking care come full circle. As we are blessed, we give more blessings (and more care) to others.
“Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7
I hate to admit it, but I’m not a cheerful giver. I always want to hang on to things and people tightly. Now this can be good — it makes me loyal and persevering in relationships, for example; but when it comes to being generous, it’s a bad thing. I could make excuses and tell you I have an anxious personality, so I get worried that I may not be able to take care of myself if I give away too much. Or I could explain that my grandparents grew up during the depression and they taught me to be excessively frugal and worried about money. None of this gets me off the hook, however. God wants me to give cheerfully to others, and often I don’t.
What do I do about this? Well, as with other spiritual disciplines (and giving is a spiritual discipline), I start where I am, and try to grow. When I’m asked to give financially, I give an amount I am comfortable with, and then I give some more. When I’m asked to give of my time ( and I find my problems with this often come about because I don’t want to disrupt my plans or routine), I remind myself that I’m retired now, and my plans can usually be postponed or changed without causing a problem. I also have the advantage of having a generous, godly husband and two daughters with the gift of mercy. When it comes to matters of giving, I try to let one of them take the lead and I follow their example.
Has it worked? Well, I still don’t always give cheerfully. I’m seldom spontaneously generous. It will never be my gift. But I have grown. I’m not where I ought to be, but I’m not where I used to be, either. As our author, Michele says, I’m a work in progress, both saint and sinner.
I’m open to other suggestions. Readers and authors, how do you practice generosity? Have you grown in this discipline?