360* Giving

“Giving” involves parting with something we possess for the good of others. The more we think we own the things we possess, the more difficult it will be to part with them. As UESI folks, most of us must have gone through lessons on stewardship which recognizes God as the owner of resources, and we as the God-appointed managers of those resources. And, since with God’s resources we make a produce, the produce also belongs to God. We commonly summarize the resources as time talent and the produce as treasure. I would like to recognize one more aspect of the produce here – a psychological aspect – which is self-esteem. It is a judgement of oneself as well as an attitude towards the self. We produce this consciously or unconsciously as we build our talents or deploy them to accomplish things we set out to accomplish. Now, why are we talking about self-esteem as we seek to explore the area of giving? Because, like any other treasure, there will arise situations where we may be required to part with our selfesteem.

There will be times when we are tempted to establish our worth before others (by speaking high of ourselves or peaking in a manner that makes others feel they are inferior to us); times when others don’t recognize our worth; and times when people even deliberately erode our worth. In such times, we will be able to give Christ-like responses only if we recognize the need to lay our selfesteem at the altar. Remember, Jesus’ impeccable life on earth was marked by this primary sacrifice – He was God, yet, He chose to take the form of man!

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, Phil. 2:5-7. When we look into ourselves this way, we will soon realize that our struggles in these areas stem from either an over-sized self-esteem or an under-sized self-esteem or an inability to surrender the right-sized self-esteem, when called for. We understand this from the following Scriptures. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you” – Rom 12:3 [NIV]). “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” Rom. 12:1 [NIV] (Consider “bodies” as involving our psychological aspects also). When it was time for the Son to execute the salvation plan of God, He did not hesitate to sacrifice His heavenly position. He was ready to reduce Himself voluntarily!

In other places, we see others reducing His worth by their accusations, ridicule, insults and rejection. But He responded to them by demonstrating forgiveness! It is this submission of His that bought us the gift of salvation. As we are in the job of helping others receive this gift of salvation, let us be ready to part with that part of ourselves which, perhaps, is the toughest to part with. If we understand this aspect of giving, we will easily see its relationship with forgiveness, and with God’s grace, and will find forgiving doable!

360-1Now, moving on to the financial aspects of giving. . . it is useful, at the outset, to remind ourselves that the attitude of giving counts more than its amplitude (amount). It is impossible to please God by “giving with an intention to get” When it comes to financial giving, we cannot take “giving to God” as an investment destination. There are some people who consider giving to God as a high-return, low-risk investment instrument. God is able to meet all our needs, but He need not satisfy our greed! He is able to reward us, but He is pleased when we don’t set our eyes on the rewards while giving. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus, Phil 4:19 (NIV). Note that apostle Paul is saying this to the believers in Philippi in response to the gift they had sent to him; he is not appealing for funds by showing them a reward! “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work,” 2 Cor. 9:8 (NIV). When God rewards, we are not expected to become indulgent. THE RICH are particularly ommanded to give generously Although generosity is a virtue everybody is encouraged to exhibit, the rich are particularly commanded to give generously. They are also warned not to put their hope in wealth or be arrogant. Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor put their hope in wealth, … Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share, 1 Tim. 6: 17, 18 (NIV). When the Lord prompts, EVEN THE POOR can respond sacrificially Consider the widow at the temple who gave all that she had. There may be times when certain compelling needs may be presented before us. And when the Lord urges us, we must respond spontaneously and sacrificially without making too much of calculation or analysis. “. . . their (Macedonian churches) extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” 2 Cor. 8: 2 (NIV).

The ministry of UESI is built on the sacrifices of many people – financial and otherwise. Leaders demonstrated extraordinary commitment in shaping young lives who, in turn, became leaders of successive generations. Even the recent year-end drive that saw the wiping away of several lakhs of rupees of accumulated deficit is the result of, I believe, many people’s sacrificial giving and forfeited entitlements. While sacrifice is a virtue, it is necessary to be aware of the principle that it is a matter of personal choice, and if the family is going to be impacted by the exercise of that choice, one should take the family also into the decision making process. EVERYONE is encouraged to give cheerfully and systematically Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver, 2 Cor. 9:7 (NIV).

Have we wondered where this cheerfulness emanates from?

Love! When our giving is motivated by the love for God, it will be a cheerful experience. God’s attitude in giving is summed up in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” Note the sequence. He loved and therefore gave! [source: http://www.compass1.org/money-qa/our-attitude-in-giving] And, for our joy to be complete, we should have the confidence that God is pleased with our giving. God is pleased only when we also pay attention to the more fundamental things in life seriously. He is neither pleased with the practice of rule-based giving or the attitude of compensatory giving. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others, Matt. 23:23 (ESV). “Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? . . . what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:7-8 (ESV).

We are not only expected to give cheerfully but also systematically. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made, 1 Cor 16:2 (NIV). Regularity, proportionality and proactiveness – all rolled into one verse! With all the avenues of conveniences available today – scheduled electronic fund transfers, standing instructions, cheque-drop facility, post-dated cheques, etc. – what is the difficulty in becoming more systematic in giving? As we saw earlier, attitude counts more. We cannot be casual in our giving – “when I feel like giving, I will give”… “when reminded, I will give”, etc.

In UESI, the problem of deficit, many would concur, is due to the failure in systematic giving. If 5000 graduates give Rs200 per month on an average, more than 50% of UESI-National’s budgetary needs can be met, right? If every ICEU and EGF sets a modest monthly financial contribution target according to their ability, and remain faithful in fulfilling their commitment, we may not hear of deficits anymore. May the Lord help us to be faithful stewards of the resources He entrusts with us and the produce He blesses us with. Let me close here with a quote from John Wesley: Earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.

Mahind is a management educator, life skills trainer and Bible teacher. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, Shyla, and son, Steve. He is involved in UESI from his student days in the 80s. (This article is an adaptation of an article by the same author published in Communicare, the Bangalore EGF newsletter)
Email: mahindcs@yahoo.com. Twitter: www.twitter.com/mahindcs.

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