The Joy of Giving (8:30am)
Topic: Giving Scripture: Psalm 146–146, 1 Timothy 6:6–6:19
Many people have a memory verse from scripture that they use for daily inspiration: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” “Cast all your anxiety on the Lord, for he cares for you.” “Be strong and courageous, for wherever you go, I the Lord your God am with you.” All of them are great.
Oddly enough, I can remember this verse being quoted to me by my mother, often, when I was growing up: “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Mo wanted me to be sure to get the first part right. It’s not money that’s the root of evil, it’s the love of money. The second part of the verse as quoted was a little bit off. It’s not the root of all evil, just of many evils. That’s true. Much suffering arises from greed, the insatiable desire for more, and the willingness to do anything to get it. Relationships have gone on the rocks due to arguments about money. Families have broken apart over who gets what at the end of a loved one’s life. Wars have been started, murders committed, the world economy brought to its needs, whole ecosystems destroyed for love of money.
Is it possible to appreciate money in a positive way for the good it can accomplish? Money can be a huge blessing to both giver and receiver. Our passage starts with a warning about the downside, but it ends at a place of celebration for money’s potential to help. The premise is, giving feels good. “Tell the rich to hope in God, who provides everything for our enjoyment. Encourage them to do good works with their wealth.” Our passage relates joyful giving directly to our Christian faith. The solution to greed is not to hate money, but to enjoy it and share it and love it as a blessing.
Manisha Thakor is a financial planning advisor who asks two questions of her clients. “If you suddenly received $10 million and at the same time learned you had a limited time left to live, what would you do? Secondly, what would you stop doing? Most people tell her they would be more philanthropic, spend more time with family and friends, and pursue hobbies, travel, and volunteer work. What would they stop doing? They’d stop worrying about money. They’d stop fretting about what other people think. Quite a few would stop working. Then she asks, “What’s keeping you from the life you envision?” She writes, “For some people, the answer may be to make more and spend more. But for a far greater number of people, I find the answer comes in being much more discerning about how to use limited resources—both money and time—to maximize joy in this life.” What will we do with the gifts we have been given—gifts of time, compassion, skill, and financial ability?
Paul English is the co-founder of the travel website Kayak.com. A recent book called “A Truck Full of Money” chronicles his journey as an entrepreneur who also struggles with bipolar disorder. He’s had long periods of astonishing creativity followed by a crash and deep psychological darkness. Paul English grew up in an industrial suburb of Boston, to a family that had very little money. His company recently sold for $2 billion. He spoke to an interviewer of his discomfort with having so much. People will tell him, “You shouldn’t feel that way. You worked hard to get that money.” His reply? “Many people in the world work much harder than I ever did, but they still can barely put food on the table. Because of the way my mind works, I just got lucky.” He’s now trying to give his vast fortune away. That’s not always easy. He wants to find where his money will do the most good, and who he can trust to help him give the money away. We joke and say, “I’d like to have such a problem!” But it can be a real challenge.
Almost all of us have been given something to share. Jesus asks followers to wrestle with the question. How can my resources best be directed in the work of God’s kingdom, God’s realm? This faithful pondering is always to be done in an environment of grace. As St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “not as though being compelled or forced, but according to whatever we have decided in our own hearts.” That’s the biblical way of giving.
I leave you with this thought, from writer Nick Kristof, who has spent much time in the world’s most impoverished places. Sometimes we think, what good does it do to give money or volunteer? Aren’t things just getting worse all the time? Well, no—quite the opposite. The number of people living in extreme poverty has tumbled by 50% in the last 20 years. The number of people dying from preventable disease has declined by a similar percentage. The UN goal to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 is on track. Inequality around the globe dropped dramatically. Through most of human history, the vast majority of adults could not read; today, 85% of adults are literate. Much of this advance in well-being is due to charitable foundations, medical, church and religious organizations, business, and governments working together. Kristof observes, “Historians may conclude that the most important thing going on in the world in the early 21st century was a stunning decline in human suffering.”
Giving matters. It makes a difference. Amounts large, small, and tiny make a difference. Giving of self, time, skill, and financial resources brings joy to giver and receiver. Giving helps to advance the work of the kingdom on earth, and it brings glory to our Lord Jesus Christ.