Wednesday, December 19, 2012

on giving

when i was in college, i worked at a lifeway christian bookstore for about six months. one evening, a woman came in the store, distraught and asking for money to help bury her child she'd just lost. i told her i'd ask our manager if we could help, and i gave her what little cash i had in my wallet. moments later, i had to tell her our store could do nothing to help. it wasn't our "policy."

after she left, the guy who was working with me that night said something along the lines of, "you know you just got duped. what an irresponsible way to steward a few bucks." i wasn't naive. i knew there was a good chance the sad story about a dead child and funeral costs had been made up. but, in the back of my mind, i had to wonder: what if it was true? what if she really needed help?

the question of how christians should respond in these situations probably comes up more often around christmas than any other time of the year. i have seen more people on street corners in my city with signs reading "broke and hungry" this month. i was approached two days ago in the parking lot of a local shopping center by a woman who said she needed help feeding her two children. i know there is real need here (several months ago, we were named the #1 city for hungry children in america...not something you really want to be #1 for), but sometimes i still hear that voice in my head: "you know you just got duped."

i don't like that christians make other christians feel guilty about being generous. and i don't want my children believing that we put conditions on how we give and who we give to. i want them to know they should never feel guilty about helping someone who they think is in need.

i love these words from the sermon of a 19th century scottish minister (found in tim keller's excellent book generous justice: how God's grace makes us just):

"now, dear christians, some of you pray night and day to be branches of the true vine; you pray to be made all over in the image of christ. if so, you must be like him in giving...'though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor'...objection 1. 'my money is my own.' answer: christ might have said, 'my blood is my own, my life is my own'...then where should we have been? objection 2. 'the poor are undeserving.' answer: christ might have said, 'they are wicked rebels...shall i lay down my life for these? i will give to the good angels.' but no, he left the ninety-nine, and came after the lost. he gave his blood for the undeserving. objection 3. 'the poor may abuse it.' answer: christ might have said the same; yea, with far greater truth. christ knew that thousands would trample his blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet he gave his own blood. oh, my dear christians! if you would be like christ, give much, give often, give freely, to the vile and poor, the thankless and undeserving."


1 comment:

  1. Amen! I was just thinking of this....we are held accountable to give, we are not responsible with how the giving is used. We have a basket in our van for homeless people stocked with food and gospel materials. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! - Amanda McAlpine