Using what we own for God
When it comes to money, everyone wants to have more, hold on to more, have something in their back pocket, and just generally have some!
It's hard to appreciate, living in a Welfare State, that there are still people who will go hungry, have no roof over their head, and won't be able to pay school fees, buy school lunches or clothes. Yet this is the reality in New Zealand, and in many other countries of the world. For a long time we have relied on both Church and State to provide for those who are needy. Our taxes to the Government are in part to fund healthcare and welfare. Our donations and tithes to churches are for church programmes, many of which are to help the community. Many churches have free meals, or food parcels for those who need a bit of help (or a lot of help!). Charities, with no church affiliation, are also set up and run to help those who fall through the cracks, who cannot get healthcare or the support they need from their community.
The list of needs is long. The list of people who are needy is long. Every year, we can see the list getting longer, and the needs greater.
For those who have some financial security, or even wealth, there has never been a time where their contributions were more sought after. The jockeying for donations has caused many to avoid giving much, or at all. Disaster after disaster falls, and each time there is some new emergency to give money to. This can result in donation fatigue, or, with the rise of less scrupulously run charities and even scams, a wariness and cynicism towards giving.
Sometimes the ones you would think have a need to look after their own nest are the ones who are generous with their money, and their time, to help others. Some scoff at those who, looking like they can barely keep their own heads above water, are spending money and giving things to those less fortunate than themselves.
What should be our approach to giving? Should we divide our efforts, gifts and donations? Should we spend more on others than we do? Should we sacrifice our families wants and needs in order to give to others? Should we leave it to the State, or to churches and charities, to do what we are less equipped to do? Is it our responsibility? Is it our job? Should we care?
Helping others is something we should consider, if only for our own selves. The Golden rule reminds us: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Few would want to be in the situation of having no job, no food on the table, no resources, and would be happy to have a bit of a hand, or some encouragement, to get back on their feet. Some of us may be a bit proud to accept what we think of as charity, but in dire situations, that is something we have to face. Many people have lost their homes and everything they own to bushfires in Australia. Putting ourselves in their shoes, visualising what we would need or want in a crisis, can help us start to appreciate that doing something to help, and accepting help, is not a bad thing at all.
Helping others is not only good for them, it is a good thing to do. The very act of doing good, and being kind, makes us happier and healthier too. Giving also connects us to others, creating stronger communities and helping to build a happier society for everyone. Many people who have been helped in their hour of need become more active participants in their communities, and pass on help that they once received.
Each person will know, in their own conscience, whether they are doing what they should, and if they could do more. Each person will know what causes are dear to their hearts, and will likely weigh up where their money and time is best spent. We can still make wrong choices, but thinking about sharing what we have, and how to do this wisely, is surely the first step in making a difference. Having a giving attitude and a heart for others will prompt us to be less selfish and "do what is right." The change needs to start in our hearts and minds. It starts with gratitude for what we have, and realising what a privilege that is, and also what a responsibility it is.
What about giving to God? Is giving to the Church the only way to give to God?
Remember the verses in Matthew 25. Jesus shows that giving to God is more than tithing and making offerings.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Clearly, not all of this help required a gift of money, but what we do often relies on it, or we think it does. There are still ways, though, that we can help others without having a lot of money ourselves. We can be aware of others needs, show kindness, and provide what help we can. Fetching a glass of water for someone who is hot and thirsty takes little more than a few moments of effort. Making our meals spread out a bit to feed an extra mouth or two takes little more than each one at the table having a spoonful less. Sharing your umbrella on a wet day with a stranger costs nothing. Growing fruit and vegetables and sharing the extra, that otherwise might go to waste, helps fill stomachs for free. Perhaps there is even a community garden in your area crying out for a few green-thumbed members! Or a few refugees and immigrants in need of some help learning and practising English.
We need to open our eyes and ears to the needs of others, and resist becoming hard-hearted. Let's not get tired of trying to do good, or thinking of and finding ways to help others.
Let's use what we own, whether it be time, money, skills, companionship, or possessions, to give back to God through the people around us.
Bible verses from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.