“You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.””
2 Corinthians 9:7
Fresh bread steaming. A nutritious meal in the slow cooker. Salad prepped.
Pie in the oven.
Time to pack up and get out the the field, to where the work crew was eagerly awaiting supper.
Three heavy boxes stacked, two squirmy kids dawdling, one grouchy mama grunting sarcastic orders.
Not one golden ring let alone five, as the song goes. ‘Tears a-streaming’ was a lot closer to the truth than nine ladies dancing as tired squealed and children squalled all the way to the field.
Not one crew member ever even hinted that they wanted fresh bread and pie every day. No one ever said or implied that the meals needed to be anything more than a sandwich.
I just thought in my little head that I needed to perform, to prove my value.
After working all day.
Sheesh kapeesh. Someone give this lady a slap upside the head.
See, I had this verse in the back of my head. Christians are supposed to give. We are, after all, to model our lives after Jesus, the perfect and most profound Giver the world has ever known.
‘God loves a cheerful giver’ was sealed onto my soul from a song of the same name on an old record we had when I was a kid. I just didn’t understand the principle behind those words. I thought giving should pinch. I assumed giving would and should be a painful process – all that selfless dying for humanity was a steep act to follow, after all.
So I gave.
I gave it everything I had.
Actually, I gave more than I had.
And I threw my children’s needs – and my own – under the proverbial bus in the process.
See, I didn’t really pay much attention to all of the instructions.
The part about not giving under pressure. The part about not giving with a grimace. The part about deciding in my heart how much I want to or am able to give.
Friends, I’m giving you permission not to give.
Yes, you read that right.
I’ll say it again – you don’t have to give.
Before I get angry phone calls from y’all trying to set my theology straight, let me explain.
Yes, we are called to give. Yes, we are called to be selfless.
But we aren’t called to give out of an empty tank. We aren’t called to give when it will cause us or others harm.
We are finite. We have finite resources. One tank, if you will. Once it’s empty, we can run temporarily on our reserves – but we desperately need to top up the tank before it runs dry. It’s a lot easier to add three cups of water to a slight deficit than to scrape together 10,000 gallons when we’ve already gone dangerously dry.
I was giving of my reserves – my time and energy would have been better spent taking a more leisurely pace, letting my babies pick a handful of rocks on the way to the car with one box instead of three.
I should have been working just as hard at filling my tank as filling anyone else’s, because I can’t give what I don’t have.
I don’t want to be a grouchy giver.
I want to pour generously from my overflow.
No reluctance. No resentment. No gritting of teeth or forming of fists or angry words or empty tanks.
Just love. Peace.
And a dose of good cheer.
There’s another song I remember from my youth – ‘little is much when God is in it’. I’m better off scaling back on my giving and dousing the gift with prayer and a great attitude than trying to give what I don’t even have left.
God is a God of balance and boundaries. He knows us well enough to have foreseen the teaching we needed on this topic.
I’m so grateful for this lesson.
Learn to give with a truly happy heart with me??
Father, how good it is to copy Your example. You are the Ultimate Giver. Help us to understand and respect our limits, and give out of our fullness after filling up on Your goodness. Amen.