Last night, I went to Target to get some thank you notes. Of course I could have gotten them from anywhere, but I love Target. I was in my neighborhood not the church one, but my home one. When I walked up talking and laughing and being my usual jovial without a care in the world self, I heard a woman talking and I realized she was talking to me. I saw her as I walked up and my eyes caught hers and I smiled as she and her kids were standing by the door. I am accustomed to folks standing and waiting on rides and I wasn’t in Edgewood where it is bound to be someone asking for something so I was a little taken aback when she started talking to me.
“Ma’am do you have any money?” Of course living in that VISA commercial I very rarely have cash and so I immediately was saying no when I remembered my nail tech’s tip money that I didn’t give her and I passed her the money. “What’s going on with you?”, my pastoral concern was taking over. She told me that she didn’t have all of her rent money. I apologized for not having more to share and went into the store.
As I checked out, I looked out the doors to the store and saw the family standing there and I chose the cash back option. When I went back outside, as I handed her the money, I asked the mother what was the problem with the rent. Being in Edgewood, I have grown accustomed to parents who have not gone to their required classes or met their requirements of working. I hadn’t heard this one though. The father of her two oldest died and his SSI check was now being split between them and another child that she didn’t know that he had. I apologized and we spoke briefly about her options in finding an apartment that could be afforded on her new lower income. Immediately, a woman walked briskly up and passed a bill to the mother and said, “here, take this $100 and I sure hope you’re not lying – go take care of those babies”. The mom exclaimed in excitement and asked God to bless the woman and assured her she was not lying. The woman said uh huh and walked away.
So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
I felt some kind of way when the woman gave that $100. I remember growing up in the church and at every benevolent offering you heard “so let each one give as he/she purpose in the their heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” while the lady gave $100, she seemed compelled and not very cheerful to me. Sometimes it seems that we have to do something to make ourselves feel better – not necessarily because it is the right thing to do. I see folks all the time give money and say, “don’t buy a drink”, “you better spend my hard earned money on food”, “I pray to God you’re not tricking me”. I often wonder if they spend their time wondering what their money went for.
I know in the economic times it may seem hard to give cheerfully or it may appear prudent to question where your money is going, but imagine if that is how God treated us. We are to give from our hearts cheerfully because that is how God has blessed and continues to give to us.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17). “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16). Jesus “gave Himself for our sins” (Galatians 1:4). “Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us” (Ephesians 5:2). God is a giver and He wants us to be like Him.
Every time I find myself in need, my God restores me and heals me and encourages me and cheers me on with compassion and mercy and grace. The way that God takes care of me encourages me to be like God – gracious and merciful, compassionate and loving. The way that God gives to me, despite who I am, despite my shortcomings, despite my thoughts and despite my actions, makes me realize that I have an example that is so easy to follow in my giving, not just in my money, but in my time, in my heart strings, in my talents.
I want to be like Christ not just when folks can see me, but cheerfully at all times and in all places in my heart. I want to love as Christ loves, I want to give as God has given to me – at that point I recognize that God blesses me with peace that surpasses my very understanding.