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Giving is a Choice (Goal of Giving #2)

Everyone hates paying taxes. Which is kind of odd, because some of the money ends up doing a lot of good. Food stamps help people buy groceries. Local taxes fund public schools, libraries, police, firefighters, and roads. Medicare, disability, and social security provide health care and financial support for some of the most vulnerable.

So why do we hate something that does so much good?

The problem is choice. No one asked if you wanted to be a part of this or how much you wanted to give. Nor did they ask you who it would go to, whether you’d like your donation to go to your neighbor, or Suzanne in East L.A. You just get a “generous” deduction on every hard-earned paycheck without your consent or input.

Non-profits release “accountability reports” to help you make educated choices on your donations. If you don’t like what the Red Cross is doing, you can give to the Salvation Army instead. However, we as citizens can only influence these taxes and laws one way: by voting. But good luck living as a Democrat in rural Alabama or a Republican in New York City. You’re outnumbered. It’s no wonder people refer to taxes as “theft”, despite the good it does accomplish.

Taxes are not a gift because you don’t have a choice.

But do you have the same feeling when you give? That someone else chose it for you? Are you just giving because you feel required or obligated to do so? Those feelings are driven by shame and guilt, not love.

Customs or cultural norms sometimes cause this. The Christmas craze can bring out the worst in people (just google “Black Friday Fights”). Have you ever had someone help you out, then felt anxious that you have to repay them back as soon as possible? Some people feel a strong need to settle the relational balance sheet to not owe anyone anything. Or perhaps your minister puts the guilt on real hard right before the offering plate goes by. It feels wrong, and we all know it.

That’s not how God intended us to be generous.

We talked previously about the first goal of giving: Give Compassionately. God loved, so he gave. Not that he needed to. Not that someone berated him into giving. But love and compassion. It leads us into the next goal:

#2 Give Freely

The best gifts are free, not forced. Generosity is genuine.]

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Cor. 9:7

The word reluctantly means “begrudgingly,” and is connected to “pain, grief, annoyance, affliction.” The other phrase, under compulsion, means “necessity, imposed either by the circumstances, or by law of duty regarding to one’s advantage, custom, argument.” Neither of these things are true generosity, but we can easily feel it while reluctantly putting something in the offering plate, buying a last-minute gift, or putting our change in the tip jar at the coffee shop.

Instead, we are to freely give as we have “decided in our hearts.” You get to be as generous as you want! This way inevitably leads to joy. We see it demonstrated in the Gospel (Jesus come to earth to save us), which is available for all people who call upon the Lord.

For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:11-13

“…the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Then we see Jesus, as he sent out his disciples into the nearby towns, release them with this instruction to give themselves away:

“These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:5-8

And the early church modeled unbridled generosity, to the point of mass yard-sales to help each other out.

 “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Acts 4:32-35

“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. Acts 2:44-45 

Can you feel the joy emanating from these people as they are extravagantly generous? This is the life we are meant to live. There’s an amazing opportunity for creativity and ingenuity when we live freely, no constraints.

You can read more passages on freely given giving. Hopefully it inspires you to take some responsibility for “the choice.” The choice to not let organizations, institutions, and governments do what we can do to help the people in our corner of the world. Let’s recognize the need, and choose to freely give ourselves away.

*Photo by Victor Rodriguez on Unsplash. Enhanced by J.B.

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