I have a friend who loves asking questions. He doesn’t collect cars, coins, or clay ashtrays, he collects candid answers. He asks questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”. He challenges your mind and soul to think intelligently, look back to your past, and/or state your beliefs. Often he asks the same question to everyone he meets and collects their answers.
This past week, in the midst of America’s bi-polar season of giving and selfishness, Phil’s polled, “If I gave you a million dollars with the requirement that you give away $500,000, who would you give it to?”
He asked store clerks, people standing in line, and anybody that walked into his office. He learned that close relatives were often the chosen recipients, except for young man who scoffed and said, “Well, not my FAMILY!” Some dreamed aloud about buying a reliable vehicle or a bigger home. People enjoyed the opportunity to think about who they love and who they would bless. The question brought out the innermost intents and desires of peoples’ hearts.
The most shocking answer came from a bank teller named Caroline, a woman know for her warm and friendly care to customers. She and her husband both work full-time to care for their own family and their extended family in Mexico who struggle financially.
She answered quickly, but not with the expected answer. “Oh, I’d give it to the Children’s Hospital. They do such wonderful work with children.” He knew she’d experienced their care for her autistic child, but he couldn’t get past the obvious need in her life he thought she was missing.
“That’s a great place to donate, but what about your family in Mexico?” Phil questioned.
“Phil, that’s what the other $500,000 is for,” Caroline answered.
That same spirit of giving was seen in Mark 12 by a widow. She was in the temple praying and giving her financial offering. While others were making a great public show of how much they could afford to throw in, she quietly slipped in two mites, coins not even worth a penny. The Lord Jesus praised her for this meager gift in verse 44 saying “they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.” The wealthy wanted all the others to observe their giving, she simply gave her all.
This month the streets and stores are packed with people eager to give presents to friends, families, and neighbors. Everybody gives at Christmas. It’s fun. It’s rewarding. It’s expected. But, it should be the way we end a year of giving, not be our only season of giving.
Giving to the church is the beginning of the Lord’s instructions concerning our money. The church needs money to minister and that money doesn’t fall from Heaven, it comes from the pockets of believers. The Lord may own a cattle on a thousand hills, but He gives that money to Christians to care for the needs around them. Missionaries. Orphanages. Food banks. Christian works that distribute Bibles and support literacy. Christian ministries. Neighborhood families. Pregnancy centers. Homeless shelters. We’re surrounded by a sea of need and not everyone is holding up a sign to let you know.
In the Old Testament, money was a blessing for faithfulness. If you had a lot of camels, the Lord might be honoring your faith. In the New Testament money is a test of faithfulness. In Luke 16 the Lord requires faithfulness with little, which is money, before He entrusts true riches. What?!?! Money isn’t the true riches?
The answers Phil received stirred my heart as I thought about the beautiful examples of those that truly give. I love the feeling of giving that perfect gift, especially when my children were young. YouTube is filled with adorable clips of children yelling, screaming, and bursting into tears when their parents fulfill the desire of their hearts. That’s the feeling we should seek daily, giving out of our abundance and our scarcity, in a way that extends beyond our checkbooks. Time, sincere compliments, gifts, cards of appreciation, talents, hobbies all can be given generously and cheerfully.
We should all give ourselves the best gift this season, the gift of being a giver. And we don’t have to wait until we have $500,000 to begin.