This is the “Season of Giving.” We are being asked left and right to give and give and give, both to loved ones and worthy causes. Our time, our possessions, and our money.
This is also the time of year when we are gearing up for New Year’s Resolutions, which usually involve our vows to increase whatever activities we believe will make us healthier, wealthier, more productive, more organized, and, I believe if you’re reading this blog, more of the kind of person God wants us to be.
We need to be very, very careful.
We know, in theory, that we should not spend what we cannot afford this holiday season. That means only giving if we have a surplus of funds. Otherwise, we get debt.
Giving of our time and talents should be treated the same way. All of us have been given a surplus in some way. Perhaps it’s an ability to organize. Perhaps it’s a gift of extra time due to grown children, or a romantic breakup. Maybe our surplus comes from an advanced degree, a knack for computers, a gift for decorating, a large bank account.
Romans 12:6-8 says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.”
Our surpluses are all unique to each of us, and we are meant to enjoy and use them. No surplus will last forever, so while we have it, enjoy it and share it. THIS is the place from which we are being called to give.
What we are NOT being called to do, however, is give out of “debt.”
This means we are not being called to say “yes” to things out of a feeling of guilt or obligation. It also means we are also not being called to give out of our own deficits of time, money, knowledge, talents, or interests.
Under these circumstances, we will end up burnt out, resentful, and inadequate.
I learned this the hard way the minute I said “yes” to a certain volunteer job.
It was for a worthy cause, an honor to be asked, a friend who did the asking. The problem was, it wasn’t anything that had ever hit my radar before, and required skills that were out of my comfort zone.
And I knew I would do a terrible job. And I was right.
After a year at the helm, no one argued when I stepped aside to make room for my successor, who did a FABULOUS job and still holds the post to this day.
Now, what if I’d just said “no” in the first place? This person could have been sharing his spiritual gift all along! Instead, my people-pleasing stood in the way of someone else’s calling.
I imagine God’s plan to heal the world and smooth out the injustices of mankind as a wave washing over a rippled, muddy beach. With every powerful wave, the particles clinging to the tops of the sandy ridges are washed into the crevices, until eventually the surface is smooth and even.
God sees our peaks. He also sees our valleys. He has a plan to even them out, if we let Him. This means sharing our abundance, and accepting help for our deficits.
He is not calling us to dig deeper into our debts. He is not asking us to give what may be abundant to someone else besides ourselves. He is not comparing the worthiness of each gift we possess. After all, He’s the one that gave them!
And he’s not asking us to give to the point of being miserable.
2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” This passage doesn’t mean put on a happy face and dig deeper (though many church treasurers may wish it did), it means give in a way that makes you happy, fulfilled, sustained, empowered.
Don’t feel like you have anything to give right now at all? Then maybe it’s time to let God fill up your deficits by facing them, and asking for help.
Feel intimidated by others’ abilities and gifts? Don’t. They aren’t yours to give, and God never expected them from you.
Feel frustrated you can’t give any money or time because you have none at the moment? Wait. Wait in anticipation (which means be ready for it) for a wave of opportunity to wash over you and allow you to painlessly and joyfully share the abundance you have.
**This week, spend some intentional time on the following:
1) What abundance in your life can you easily identify that could be shared?
2) What deficits do you have?
3) What deficits do you see in the world that need your surplus?
4) Who in your life has an abundance in your deficit areas? Could they either partner with you, or replace you, to fill a need in the world?
5) What potential abundances do you have that need to wait for a better time to share?