Why Do You Give?
Doug and Grace recently answered this question during worship. Here is an edited transcript of their heart centered testimony:
Why do we give? First, generosity is an act of giving that everyone has the capacity to do. We heartily reaffirm that generosity is defined not by an amount, but rather by an attitude of the heart. Generosity can be time, talent, or treasure. Today we have been asked to speak about financial generosity. It is defined not by “giving until it hurts.” We have all heard that plea. It is defined by “giving until it feels good.” Who does not want to feel good?
We give because generosity is a mark of discipleship. We regard all that God has given us as a sacred trust, and we experience giving as a sacred action. Both of us have been blessed to be philanthropic charitable gift planners for non-profit organizations. Grace has assisted people with philanthropic planning for 30 years at St. Olaf College. We help people actualize their passion for generosity.
We think of giving and generosity as having three vital characteristics. First, it’s an act of worship and adoration to God. It is as much an act of worship as prayer, singing hymns, reading Holy Scripture, and the proclamation of the Word. Second, generosity is an act of obedience to the Holy Spirit. We are called to give our lives. And third, generosity is connection with the body of Christ. These three characteristics together make generosity a passion: a passion for life, a passion for faith, and a passion for mission.
Douglas Lawson, a colleague in our profession, wrote a book entitled “Give to Live” many years ago. It is about how being philanthropic (and we can all be philanthropic according to our means) creates positive influence in our lives and society. We give to build and sustain better hospitals, better schools, better communities, and better ministries. Beyond that, however, we give because it is an act of discipleship. We give to build a better Kingdom of God.
We give, not out of obligation, not out of routine, not as an afterthought, not only when it might be convenient. We give because we are called to give. Most of us will not have to “lay down our life.” However, the mark of discipleship we call generosity calls us to not just “Give to Live.” No, even more so, it calls us to “Live to Give,” that others may live, which builds the Kingdom.
How did we learn to be generous? Doug watched his grandfather, and this is really a whole other story. Suffice it to say, he taught me the worth and value of every human being as a child of God. Grace learned about generosity through the lives of her parents. They lived to give and serve others. It was part of their spiritual fabric.
What’s the impact of our giving upon our own spiritual formation? Generosity and spiritual formation for us has a symbiotic relationship. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? We believe it works both ways. We know our faith grows our generosity, and our generosity grows our faith.
A friend of ours, Dr. Eugene Peterson, who compiled “The Message” Bible, states it in these words from Matthew 6:19-21: “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or – worse! – stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”
How will giving generously change your spiritual life?