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Giving is More than Good Intentions… It’s Finishing.

If you are reading this then inside of you is a desire to be generous (or you somehow got added to my email list and you can’t find the fine print to unsubscribe). Maybe you’re thinking about it, but haven’t committed to it yet. Maybe you are giving a little bit sporadically but want to do more.

The question is: How will you follow through? Not just willing or eager to participate. More than just good intentions, with it’s toasty paved roads. But to actually make generosity a regular rhythm of your life?

There was a church in Corinth in the same boat. Paul told them about suffering Christians in Jerusalem that needed their help. And initially they jumped at the chance to help. There might have even been a pledge drive where they found themselves caught up in the moment, filling out a “commitment card” for a large amount. But they hadn’t done anything yet.

So Paul wrote them a letter to do something kinda sneaky. He told them about another church (the Macedonians) who had already given in a crazy way, even though they had very little. “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Cor. 8:3). In fact they were “pleading” with him to take part in helping the cause. Some inspiration mixed with a little peer pressure and competitiveness.

So what was holding them back? Something stood in the way, but it’s never named specifically.  I can guess what the excuses might have been.

  • “I’ll think about it later.”
  • “I’m not really in a place to give right now.”
  • “Someone else will come through, I’m sure.”
  • “I don’t really have the time or energy to worry about that.”
  • “I don’t know where to start.”
  • “Are we sure money is the best way to help them?”
  • “Who are these people? Why don’t we give the money here locally?”
  • “Will they waste the money if we give it to them?”
  • “I already have another ministry I give to.”
  • “Will my gift really make any difference?”

You ever have these thoughts? Me too. There’s a million excuses. But the most common one… “I just forgot.”

So Paul gives them a push:

  • “…bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of givingNow finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.” (2 Cor. 8:6-9)

I love that phrase: Excel at Giving. When we excel at anything, it’s due to practice, study, learning ways to get better, all by doing it every day. Becoming a world-class giver. What an idea, right? And most important of all: Finish the work. Close the gap between good intentions and following through.

Paul wasn’t asking them to do something they weren’t capable of. Just use what they had, “according to their means.” That’s why I wrote about taking inventory of what God has blessed you with (which is A LOT by the way). Now it’s time to put that intention into action. If you know what gifts you have to offer, here’s the next step: Match the Gift.

In your life, right now, there’s someone that needs your gift. Find out who, and give yourself away. Match the gift with the right recipient. Looking at the people, causes, and visions you care about is a great place to start.

  • Want to help battle food insecurity? Fill out a volunteer form with a local food bank. Or better yet, find one that will let you just show up and help (like One Generation Away).  
  • If upping your financial giving has been on your mind, get out your budget and hack away to make room. Start a sinking fund to be ready for the next opportunity that arises.
  • You know a single mom you work with is struggling to make ends meet. Drop her a gift card and a note to encourage her.
  • You’re great with computers, and your church’s wifi suuuuuuuuucks. Go find the youth pastor they put in charge of it (cause he’s young and talks about crypto) and gently take that responsibility off his hands.

I don’t know what it’s going to be for you, but find a way to match it up in a way that can bless other people. Scott Harrison knew how to throw parties, and he used that to fund clean water wells with the nonprofit he started, Charity:Water. Eliot’s father taught him how to work on cars. So he traded his BBQ ribs for junkers, fixed them up, and gave them to people without transportation. Mel was a serial entrepreneur, and she used that spirit to create jobs in India with her company Joyn.

It doesn’t have to begin with starting a non-profit or a business from scratch. That’s a great way to feel like you are busy doing something, when mostly you’ve just spent hours looking up fonts and color schemes for the logo of your hypothetical organization you’ll never start. Odds are there might be someone in your area doing a thing you care about, and you just need to go jump on board their train to help it go faster.

You might be waiting for God to speak a special word directly to you before moving, what we sometimes refer to as a “calling.” When I hear that, I envision someone doing snow angels, waving their arms and legs for a sign but making no progress towards it whatsoever. I’d contend that, more often then not, He’s already called you, left some voicemails, sent 30 missed text messages, slid into your dm’s a while ago, and you’ve got a full inbox of unread emails. But you haven’t taken the next step.

The book of James put it in a way that was the kick I needed 10 years ago. I was considering moving to California in 2011, but wavering because I wasn’t certain that going there would work out. A lot of unknowns. I knew that I had a place to stay if I wanted it, but was on the fence about making the decision. Then I came across James 1, which enabled me to push forward on a crazy adventure that led me to where I am today;

  • “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5-8)

God’s generosity isn’t just material, it’s also includes knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. What the next step is. He’s promised to give you that. But then at some point, you gotta do something with that. Questions are great, ask a ton of them before doing anything. But if that’s all you do, then you’re just going to get seasick. Eventually you must make the call.

What is the next step you should take towards giving away your gifts? Who can you match your gift with? How will you generously follow through?

Excel in giving. Finish the work.

[Photo by Zhu Liang on Unsplash. Enhance by J.B.]

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