By Laura Bailey, Crosswalk.com
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, NIV
Between now and Christmas, endless opportunities exist to provide for those in need. We can give your time and volunteer to serve Christmas meals at the local homeless shelter. We can donate financially to help provide presents for a family who needs assistance this Christmas. We can give of our talents, offering to decorate for the children’s home Christmas party.
Yes, there is never a lack of need, and especially around the holidays, we come face to face with the realities of living in a broken world.
One year, my husband and I, eager to help those in the community, offered to sponsor a family at Christmas time. We spent hours shopping, wrapping, and cooking, excited to have the opportunity to bless them on Christmas morning. A few weeks later, I ran into a friend who had shared that this family was having a hard time and asked if we could help.
I inquired if they enjoyed their goodies, wanting to ensure they felt loved and taken care of during the holidays. Her response was different from what I had expected. Tears ran down her face before she got the words out; between apologies, she told me that she later discovered this family had taken advantage of many people’s charity. I felt the anger bubbling inside me; I wasn’t just upset that they had played my friend, but equally angry at the families that didn’t get helped that Christmas because others had chosen to help this family in “need.”
Recounting the story to my husband later that day, I boldly proclaimed, “That’s it! We aren’t helping anyone unless they are fully vetted; no one will take advantage of me again!” My husband, graciously more even-keeled than me, softly spoke into my anger. “Laura, I am sorry that happened, and well, it’s not right. But we felt God calling us to give, right? Well, then we did what God called us to do, no matter the outcome on their part.” Unclenching my hands and lowering my shoulders, I conceded, “You’re right.”
We often get caught up in the results of our giving and miss the point of generosity. Our Heavenly Father has given us much, so he invites us to bless others with our resources. The Lord looks at our heart’s motivation. Are we giving out of obligation or expectation? Or do we give out of sincere gratitude for the many ways the Lord met and continues to meet our needs?
In our key verse, Paul reminds the Corinthians of their previous commitment to meet the needs of their community. Generosity is a blessing for both the giver and receiver. And like in nature, where more seed produces a greater harvest, the same is true in our spiritual lives. A person focused on loving others as Christ loves us will feel compelled to share their resources. The Scripture tells us that we are held accountable for our generosity to others but are not responsible for the results.
Yes, it is wise to research organizations, charitable causes, and opportunities to help before giving up your time and money. However, there will be times, like the one I mentioned above, when you answer a request for help, feel that it is the right thing to do, and end up feeling duped. There will be plenty of times that the Lord calls on His children to fulfill the needs of others, even when we don’t know or have a lot of details on the situation.
Above all, remember God is always at work, and He looks at our hearts. This Christmas season, let us not only practice radical generosity but may our attitudes be cheerful and our hearts grateful as we walk in obedience to our Lord.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your many riches. We are beyond blessed, Lord. Please help us readily acknowledge all the many ways you provide for your children. We ask that you give us discernment as we seek to help those in need this holiday season. We ask that we be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prompting. We love you, Lord. Amen.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Anna Ostanina
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