Why We GiveDecember 2008
by Howard Freeman
Fast forward a couple weeks to Christmas, and your friend or spouse or parent or child is opening the present you spent hours picking out. It is perfect for them and expresses both who they are and also shows how well you know them. Chances are you are more likely anticipating their reaction with eagerness than you are recalling the cost or the hours spent in line at Macy’s giftwrapping counter.
Why? It’s because you delight in your loved one. You want their happiness more than you worry about the cost.
This is one of the reasons that we give, Miroslav Volf says in his book Free of Charge. We delight in another.
Volf suggests two other reasons: We give to help someone in need. Consider the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:30ff), who is the classic example of the person who gave (his time, money, once-clean donkey, and oil and wine). Lastly, we give to a charity, like the Diaconate or Hope For New York, through which our gifts help our neighbors get their physical needs met.
Each of these three ways is a legitimate way to give and, Volf argues, each way imitates the way God gives to us. In addition to delighting in us, God gives because we are desperately needy, and God gives to us so that we in turn might give to others—we are like “mini-charities” to give liberally to others in need. We are pass-throughs; in fact, we’d be in danger of malpractice if we did not give!
The parable of the Good Samaritan was Jesus’ explanation of what it meant to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lk 10:27) and who our neighbor was. This Samaritan “took pity” (v. 33) on a man of a different race and religion—his enemy.
The gospel is that Jesus took pity on us—his enemies—and yet gave his payment on the Cross. God knows we are desperately needy and also delights in us, so he gives, anticipating our response to him as if on Christmas day.
When we give like it’s Christmas Day, whether it’s to Hope For New York, the Diaconate or General Funds, or some other area of the church or outside the church budget in our community, we can take joy in being partners in the gospel. For as we give liberally, sacrificially, without expecting something in return, we are embodying the gospel of Christ to those we give to.
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