ON SPIRITUALITY AND ETHICS
“When we give cheerfully
and accept gracefully,
everyone is blessed.”
The family insisted their guest enjoy the egg.
Sound strange? It is. Many years ago, Jim Wallis traveled to the Philippine countryside. One evening, he was the guest of an impoverished couple. An egg was a luxury they rarely enjoyed. Nevertheless, they gave it to Jim.
This remarkable gift is accompanied by the delight of those who offer it. Jim is struck by the genuine care they have for him. What amazes him about these givers, despite their destitution, is the joy of their faith.
This act of generosity suggests that even poverty cannot keep us from experiencing the joy of giving. Do you know this joy? Do you celebrate the gifts you have given?
Jesus speaks a profound truth: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Our consumer culture often teaches the opposite. Do you want to be happy? Then you must buy, consume, possess. It is not just our needs that must be satisfied but our wants as well.
Mary Hunt rejects such self-seeking materialism in favor of a lifestyle of giving. In her book, Debt-Proof Your Marriage, Hunt suggests we strive to live on 80 percent of our income. The first ten percent is for giving, the next ten percent is for long-term savings. Amazingly, this is the formula she used to repay twelve years of accumulated debt totaling $100,000.
Hunt explains, “A beautiful principle is the first part of everything that comes into our lives, into our marriage, you need to give it away—even if it’s a tiny bit.” She exudes joy: “It will change your life!”
Like the generous family in the Philippines, Hunt lives by the principle, “Never keep it all.” Even if we are poor or in debt, giving is essential. Otherwise, our thinking becomes impoverished as we act on the motto, “More is never enough.” We must choose either greed or gratitude.
Hunt loves to help people discover the wisdom of living below their means. Her advocacy for gleeful giving is similar to the impetus for generosity described by the Apostle Paul. We should not give sparingly or grudgingly, Paul states, because “God loves a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7). Cheerful is translated from the Greek word hilaros from which we derive the English word—you guessed it—hilarious. Imagine a giver with a belly laugh.
We usually do not think of hilarity, glee or laughter when we consider our giving. After all, it is a solemn task. Many organizations mail requests for money. The government’s do-not-call list exempts charities. Many churches are about to assault us with the “fall stewardship campaign.” These images suggest anything but joy.
Perhaps we can reframe our thinking. We have the freedom to give as we wish. Indeed, Suze Orman suggests that giving purely and from the heart is liberating: “It isn’t how much you have that creates a sense of freedom. It’s how you feel about what you have, or don’t have, that either keeps you prisoner or sets you free.”
If it really is more blessed to give than to receive, can you recall the blessings of gifts you have bestowed? Are there charities that will give you joy to support? Will you increase your generosity and gratitude? If this challenge appeals to you, how soon will you be giving ten percent?
There is another aspect of Jesus’ saying that is difficult for some of us: We may not wish to receive gifts from others. Whether from pride or the delusion of self-sufficiency, this refusal to receive is, ironically, a form of theft. Again, if giving is more blessed than receiving, then we are stealing joy from others when we do not gratefully receive their gifts.
Jim ate the egg.
©2003 Harry Rix. All rights reserved.