The Gift of Giving

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Contributed by Toby Ward, Elder Overseer of Service at Image Church

Sometime in the late summer of 2007,  my wife  Heather and I were at the Spotsylvania Mall with our two boys Pearson and Graham.  Graham was just a few months old, and as luck would have it, needed a diaper change. We had just pulled into the parking lot, and decided to open the hatch of our SUV to change his diaper. As Heather was changing Graham, I was going to throw away some trash, and I was approached by a homeless man asking for money.  He scared me because he came from behind a car, and slipped on some gravel making a loud noise. My first response was, out of selfishness I guess, to say no, and keep going. I mean its hot out, my wife is changing a diaper, and Pearson is screaming his head off for all of Fredericksburg to hear. I had bigger fish to fry.  As I was about to say no, I could see him looking past me at my wife, and naked baby, and could tell that was his next move. If I said no he was going straight to my wife and children.  As a protective dad, I instinctively told him I did not have any money on me, but if he would walk with me to the trash and back, I would get him some. Now to be honest and transparent with you, I did not do this to be nice. I did this so he would not go to my car without me. I was thinking of my family first, and him second. When we finally did arrive to the car, I gave him some money, and he was off to the next person.

That occurred a couple of years ago, and I had not thought about it since. At the time, I thought it was a win/win, since my family was safe, and he got some money. However, God has a way of bringing things back to you when you least expect it.

In December 2009 early one morning,  I was loading groceries into my truck, and it was extremely cold and windy. I was rushing to get home with the milk and cereal to feed our kids breakfast. I had my back turned to the parking lot, and all of a sudden I heard the sound of someone slipping on gravel, and INSTANTLY, the thought of the homeless man at the mall came to mind.  It was extremely weird, but that sound triggered that memory. That happened over two years before, but the sound of that gravel brought his image back to my mind.  It was very early, so I again thought it was someone approaching me. I got defensive and turned around to see it was actually just a car pulling into a parking spot, and rolling over some frozen gravel. Right there in that moment, God humbled me and spoke to me so clearly to the point that I was broken.

God showed me that I not only gave to that homeless man in 2007 out of obligation, but I need to be ready to give whenever someone needs it – regardless of how I feel or my present circumstances.  The fact that I got defensive that someone may have been infringing upon me in a parking lot, and I was not willing to help someone crippled me. More importantly, however, God convicted me that when it came to giving, I WAS JUST DEAD WRONG. He showed me that when it comes to helping and giving  to others in need, WE DO NOT HAVE A CHOICE!!  ESPECIALLY to those in our own community. Right there in the Bloom parking lot, I felt such conviction and clarity at the same time. It was an odd, but peaceful feeling, and I came home to tell Heather instantly. I think she thought I was half nuts and just needed some bacon, and I was even starting to doubt. I mean it could have been just my emotions right?

Wrong. When God wants you to get a point He has a way of making sure you get it. The very next day in my daily Bible reading, I came across this verse that cemented what God was trying to tell me.

Luke 6:30 – Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. (ESV)

Whoa. Coincidence? I think not. I was already reading through the book of Luke doing a chapter a day. I did not go searching for scripture to back up what happened the day before. I actually, sadly, had already forgotten about it. This day was chapter 6, and verse 30 floored me. This was God directly speaking to me through His Word, and cementing what He was trying to tell me the day before. How could I not listen? God’s Word is powerful, and when He reveals its mysteries to us through the power of the Holy Spirit, it’s for a reason.

So I started to dig into this a little deeper. What else did God’s Word say on this topic of “giving to all who begs”? Surely it does not mean that literally? Surely we’re not called to give to all the homeless strangers that beg? I mean we all “know” they are going to buy a 40oz Miller High Life, and have a good time in the back alley. We “know” that…right? Don’t all homeless people have a drinking problem? Surely God, there is a limit to whom I give that begs of me…right?

To fully understand Luke 6:30 you have to look at the entire passage. Lets take a look at Luke 6: 27-45 – But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” 39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. 43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.    (ESV)

First of all verse 30 comes on the heels of three verses (27-29) that we have no issue taking literally. Those verses tell us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, and turn the other cheek. Again, we have no issue taking these literally because they make sense. Verse 30 follows, and that’s where it gets a little tougher to swallow. Verse 30 says to GIVE to EVERYONE who BEGS of you. It does not say give to everyone who asks or requests or inquires. It says give to everyone who BEGS. The Greek word for beg used here is aietò, and in the context of this verse it is literally translated to beg in the ESV. Other Bible versions use the word “ask”, which is also derived from aietò, but in this context, I believe the ESV translation nails the true intent of Jesus. When someone is begging, it is because they are in extreme need and have no other way of receiving income/food/etc. Begging comes when someone has it the lowest of lows and has nowhere to look but up.

If you continue reading Chapter 6, Jesus continues on this topic in three layers: vs 27-36 – Love your Enemies, vs 37-42 – Judging Others, and vs 43-45 – A Tree and its Fruit.  All these verses are tied together because Jesus wants us to get the point.

First of all we are to love our enemies, and all those that oppress us. This includes the beggar that makes us feel uncomfortable and interrupts our lives at the mall. Jesus NAILS this issue in verses 32-36. He says its EASY to love the ones who love you. Even sinners do that. It’s easy to lend to people you know will pay you back, but since when is the Christian life easy? Folks, we are called to a higher standard and doing the things that others won’t is what sets Christians apart, and ultimately brings God glory!!  That is what it’s all about!!!!  Second, and more importantly, WHO ARE WE to judge the homeless person? First and foremost, we are called to GIVE, NOT JUDGE!! Jesus follows loving your enemies and giving to beggars with 6 verses on judging. Now isn’t that an interesting place to start talking about judging people? Of all the times to speak on judging, it follows loving our enemies?  Wow! We have NO RIGHT to judge what we “know” the beggar will do with our generosity.  None.  Nowhere in Scripture do we see to “weigh the outcome” when it comes to giving. We are called to give so that HE may receive glory. Ultimately, the homeless person may very well go buy that Miller High Life, BUT THAT DOES NOT MATTER!! God is sovereign over the receiver, just as He is the Giver. God has a sovereign plan for that beggar, just like He has a sovereign plan for the giver. God’s sovereignty is not to be questioned and is not a matter of debate. Our part, per Scripture, is to GIVE. Not judge. Lastly, and most importantly, in this passage, we see that we are known by our fruit. Ultimately, if the Holy Spirit is directing our lives, it will be on display for all to see. Doing things, like giving when no one else will, reveals Gods glory through us!! That is humbling to think that God will CHOOSE to use us!! Now THAT is a gift!!!

This topic is also addressed multiple times in the OT. Check these out:

Deuteronomy 15: 7-11 – 7 “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, 8 but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. 9 Take care lest there be an unworthy thought in your heart and you say, ‘The seventh year, the year of release is near,’ and your eye look grudgingly on your poor brother, and you give him nothing, and he cry to the Lord against you, and you be guilty of sin. 10 You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. 11 For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ (ESV)

Proverbs 21:13 – 13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. (ESV)

Proverbs 14:31 – 31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (ESV)

In Deuteronomy, God had a plan for the Israelites to ease the burden of poverty, and see that the rich did not continually become fat cats. Every seven years, the Israelites could not work their land and had to depend on God that year for food and income. Additionally, they were to cancel debts/interest on debts and release servants. The slate was to be wiped clean, and everyone was to be put on a level playing surface. This was a chance for the rich to give back to the poor what they could not afford to pay. It was God’s design so that Israelites could remain in harmony. That’s why verse 9 above is so powerful. If a friend was in need , and year seven was approaching, I could see how it would be easy to say: “I am not going to give because I will never get it back.” However, God’s plan was put in place so the rich COULD GIVE just for these circumstances so that God’s glory could be shown in the gift, the giver, and the receiver. This was sacrificial, un-judgemental giving out of the blessings God had given them. That is powerful stuff!! When we follow God’s Word, good things happen. Unfortunately, the Israelites did not listen, and they paid greatly, but that’s for a different blog.

Bottom line on this topic is this: God created the beggar, the homeless, our enemies, us, and anyone else you want to throw in this lot. To oppress them is to INSULT their MAKER, GOD!!! We are ALL His creation, and we are to all be used for His glory. Good or bad, according to His sovereign plan. Above all else, we are called to GIVE so that God can be glorified through the giver, the gift, and the receiver all according to HIS plan.  It is about HIM, and not what “we know” to be true.

So the next time we have the oppurtunity to give, THANK GOD that you are a part of His sovereign plan, and cheerfully give to whoever begs.

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One Response to “The Gift of Giving”

  1. BK Says:

    Great post Elder Toby! 🙂

    In the town I work in there are people constantly begging for money. How often I have passed them by because I didn’t feel safe, or because I just assumed they would use the money for something like drugs or alcohol. This is a great reminder to be as generous to others as God has been to us – for His glory!

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