How can we give? This question follows the previous chapter which explored ‘How should we give?’ In Chapter 3 we take a look at the human tendency to use giving as currency. We give expecting something in return. Or we give to assuage a guilty conscience. Or we give to be seen and admired. In effect, we have a tendency to give … to ourselves. For in each of these examples we benefit from the gift.
Miroslav Volf says:
“Whether we give in order to extract goods from others, win praise for magnanimity, put a fig leaf over our moral nakedness, or feed some raging beast inside, in one way or another our generosity often proves wither counterfeit or impure. We give to ourselves, in whole or in part.”
Delving deeper into the inner realities of our heart condition we find sin. The author focuses on three key aspects of sin at play when we attempt to give: selfishness, pride, and sloth.
“So can we counter the effects of selfishness, pride, and sloth and make our giving pure? Not before we land in God’s perfect world of love on the other side of this world’s history. Only when, in communion with God, we become the perfect image of God as individuals and communities, will our giving attain purity.”
Things were sounding pretty dark until I got to the part addressing ‘Transformed Attitudes’. Much emphasis was given by my mom during our upbringing on our attitude. She used to do ‘attitude checks’ rather frequently to help us be aware of the motivation of our heart at any given moment. I heard a pastor once say, “Attitude is almost everything.” And the old saying goes, “Your attitude will determine your altitude.”
The author says this:
“Giving depends on the proper attitude toward three things: towards things we possess, towards others, and towards ourselves.”
Things – our relations to things changes ones we truly understand that everything has been given to us by God.
On our last trip to the United States with all the children (we have 5) the generosity of my Uncle and Aunt shocked me. After thanking them profusely for allowing us to used their mini-van to drive around various states for three months, free of charge, I was speechless and choked up. My Uncle looked me in the eyes in total sincerity and said, “Everything we have was given to us by the Lord. It was His in the first place, so if anyone has need of it we are glad to give it because it was given to us by God. Our home, our cars, our time, our table, are all for His service.” This was the first time I had seen such genuine generosity. It filled me with ease and an overwhelming desire to follow his godly example.
This quote sums up this idea with precision:
“Earning and possessing are not just a bridge between our desires and their satisfaction. They are a midpoint in the flow of gifts: from God to us, and through us to others. We give because we have been given to; we don’t let other simply fend for themselves because we haven’t been left to fend for ourselves.”
Others – we can consider others as the intended beneficiaries of God’s gifts.
A new kind of board game has emerged in which all the players compete against the game. They work together in strategy and cooperation to beat the enemy. It is a thrilling experience to join together in a common cause with your friends or family for an evening, instead of passing the time trying to beat the ones you love.
A new attitude towards self – without being “more-than-enough” people, our wanting will always outpace our having, and we’ll end up perpetually exhausted and forever dissatisfied.
“A rich self has a distinct attitude toward the past, the present, and the future. It surveys the past with gratitude for what it has received, not with annoyance about what it hasn’t achieved or about how little it has been given. A rich self lives in the present with contentment. Rather than never having enough of anything except for the burdens others place on it, it is “always having enough of everything” (2 Corinthians 9:8). It still strives, but out of satisfied fullness, not out of the emptiness of craving. A rich self looks towards the future with trust. It gives rather than holding back in fear of coming out too short, because it believes God’s promise that God with take care of it.”
Gratitude … contentment … trust
At this point a thought struck me, “Is there enough love in me to love abundantly? The logical answer is: yes. God and His love infilling me is enough and more than enough to make me a generous lover.” Amen! This frees me up to enter into the flow of love. I don’t have to muster up feelings or put on a mask of faked love. I can trust that He has loved me, and that love in me is more than enough to spill out into the lives of the people around me. There is no scarcity of love. He gave love freely to me, I can give love freely to those around me.
Thankless ingrates. This festers in me at times. I don’t want to give because the gift is unnoticed or under-appreciated. This goes back to the start of the chapter about giving … to ourselves. Which is pride. Volf clears things up very nicely when he says:
“We are not disrespected by ingratitude; our pride is not injured. The ingratitude of recipients wrongs not us but the gift-giving God.”
There you go! I don’t have to worry about. I place the recipient and their own attitude in God’s hands. Anything that I gave them was given to me by God in the first place. So I am not offended – I pass that over to God. He can interact by His gracious mercy with the others as He sees fit. He doesn’t need me to defend Him. He is strong enough to handle that. To hear this, as a recovering control freak, brought great relief to give freely.
As Jesus said, “freely ye have received, freely give.” Yes, and amen.
The Interlude serves as a dramatic and heart wrenching introduction to the second half of the book about forgiveness. It stirs profound questions about the capacity of the human hear to truly forgive in the face of impossible circumstances.
This book is quite heady yet balanced by truth told in anecdotes. The quotes from well known and highly respected individuals underscore the impact of the points the author makes. I also very much appreciate the thorough involvement of the Hold Scriptures as he leads us on the path to a truer realities in the way we give and forgive. I recommend the book.