Pastor Jess Bousa of Restore Church tells an interesting story about a woman who called up a pastor to give the church her piano. When they arrived to pick it up, she explained that she had purchased a new piano and no longer needed the old one. And so she gave it to the church. I am “convicted” as they say by this story. After all, is that the intention of giving to God, our second, third or fourth best? Or, is it supposed to be our first fruits? In other words, not the old piano but the new one. That’s a sacrifice, that’s giving something of true value. We so often treat the church like the used clothing store. I have been guilty of this too.
Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. [Deuteronomy 12:11, NIV]
What choice possessions have I given? I am close to the full tithe. Not completely, but close. I’m still negotiating, I know. It’s fear based. I know that God will bless me if I give out of my faith. But when I withhold, my faith becomes dented, like a dip in the road. Or worse, maybe it’s whack against my foundation. For a while, my house will continue to stand, but if I allow enough whack, I shouldn’t be surprised if there’s a collapse. I’m just sayin.’
But outside of money, what else is there to give? Our church collects clothing for swaps and the like. It’s amazing the condition of items that are given: stained and torn, sometimes it would do better in the rag bag. Is there pleasure in this kind of giving? Or during the holidays, we are encouraged to “adopt” a child and purchase gifts for him/her. We finally had to spell it out, “spend $75” on your adopted kid because people were going to the dollar store, buying the cheapest things, the least valuable.
About a year after we adopted our Russian daughter who was struggling with English in high school along with white, middle class bullies. At the same time, she had never known people of color, so I took her to see the film, Freedom Writers. In this film, a teacher, played by Hilary Swank, inspires a class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education (a hope for a future). But before the teacher got there, these same students, mostly poor, were given the worst supplies, the shabbiest books, and so forth. The administration reinforced the expectations that the students were unworthy. The teacher in this film took a risk and gave them new books and opportunities never afforded them before. She gave her best. And she commanded their best. [For my daughter, this opened her own eyes as well, to prejudice of all kinds and she turned a huge corner.]
Once I admired a pair of earrings a woman was wearing. She told me they were her favorite earrings and she, too, liked wearing them. The next time I saw her, she gave me a small box and inside were the same earrings. Not new, no, but the very ones she loved the most. And now, they are one of my favorite pair as well. A small gift she gave, but from the heart. She gave the earrings to me physically, but in essence, she gave them to God.
I’ve been doing a lot of downsizing as I moved into a smaller house. I literally had to let go of most of my furniture and when I could, I sold it. But really, not all of it would sell. Among these things was my very expensive bedroom set. It was two days before moving day and still no one would buy it and so, I gave it away to a family in the church. And I felt better about that giving than any dollar I earned from anything else.
Slowly, I’m getting the idea. It may take one more downsize, one more letting go move, to really “let go” of the stuff, to experience true simplicity. For I’m thinking that it is out of simplicity that generosity flows. I will no longer “rate” the value of what I have and give the less or more valuable, but all of it is a feather in the wind.