Filings: Rich kids

You must each make up your own mind as to how much you should give. Don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves the person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,

“Godly people give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will never be forgotten.”

— 2 Corinthians 9: 7-9 (New Living Translation)

When Tiger Lilly was six years old she saw the advertisement in the newspaper for the Union Gospel Mission’s annual Thanksgiving banquet for the homeless. She studied the photo of the elderly man with the long beard and old clothes. She read the headline that said just $1.79 would provide a full Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings to a hungry person. She looked at me.

I have $1.79,” she said, with some amazement. “I can buy someone’s dinner!” I sent her upstairs to get her bank to be sure. There were a few bills in there and a lot of coins, and she methodically counted out the full amount. I kept my face non-commital as I asked her if she was sure she wanted to give that money, since it represented a lot of what she had in her bank. She was positive. I had her get an envelope to put the money into and that afternoon we drove over to the Mission. I could have simply written a check covering her contribution along with a larger one from my wife and I and mailed it in, but the Mission isn’t far from our house and I wanted her to see where the money was going and have the personal connection of seeing the real people she was helping. We went inside and the chaplain there was an acquaintance of mine. He wasn’t used to receiving direct contributions, but he took us into his small office, collected Tiger Lilly’s envelope, earnestly wrote her a receipt and thanked her for her for giving, saying how much it would mean to someone.

I remembered that episode last week when I read the article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) by Arthur C. Brooks analyzing the results of the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey. According to these results, 85 million U.S. households give money each year to non-profit organizations, while 30 million households do not. The differences between these two groups is not based on income, but on political and religious outlook, with conservatives and people of faith being the ones most likely to give and to volunteer. Besides giving to non-profits, this charity extends to giving to friends and neighbors and even to propensity to donate blood.

The article observed that some might be surprised by the discrepancy in the giving habits between conservatives and liberals given the stereotype of the heartlessness of the right. And of course it is common knowledge that religious people are all hypocrites. I wasn’t surprised, however. Many of the people I know are always open and willing to help meet a need; they draw the line at institutionalizing one, however.

To some extent this may be due to believing there’s something beyond yourself that you need to be accountable to. It can be highly motivational if you truly believe that one day you’re going to stand before God and give an account for yourself. (And, as I’ve written here before, if God asks me if I gave to the poor I don’t think he’ll be impressed if I say, “Well, I paid my taxes.”) But as 2 Corinthians says up above, it us up to each of us to choose what to give and that if we give cheerfully He will provide everything we need. It is the evidence of the latter in my life that leads me to give cheerfully, not out of a desire to receive more but out of the confidence that God will give me the means to give (providing seed to the sower as it says in verse 10). In contrast, what is the state of your heart and the measure of your actions if you believe there’s never enough of anything to go around unless it’s taken from another?

Giving is important because it’s what God wants us to do, but taxes are the government deciding who can afford to give, and the repercussions of that affect more than just the wealthy; even to the point of hurting the working poor by stifling the economy. “Free will” (or “free market”) giving, where the individual is responsible to decide how much he or she will give (or not give) is different. It also doesn’t set up stultifying and self-perpetuating bureaucracies that don’t have the incentive to ferret out fraud.

One of the greatest satisfactions of my life has been seeing my daughters grasp this important principle naturally from an early age. They’ve been tithers from the time they first received money and givers for as long as they can remember, and not just from obedience but out of joy. I remember how much they loved to put the money in the Salvation Army’s red buckets everytime we saw one when they were little, and the five-year-old Tiger Lilly spontaneously giving a dollar of her own money toward the 10-year-old Mall Diva’s first missions trip. I’ve observed the thoughtfulness and joy they’ve put into filling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child each year, and watched them get involved with organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse and Soldier’s Angels, and Operation Starfish where the Mall Diva is helping a young mother develop the life skills she needs to provide for her family. The neatest thing, however, is that they don’t have to have a program or some official ministry to get involved in in order to give; whether it’s time, money, encouragement or, occasionally, blunt advice, they give easily out of their abundance of spirit to their friends and others.

So why do I feel like the one who’s rich?

Filings is an ongoing section of this blog where the posts focus specifically on issues of Christian life. The name comes about because “filings” are the natural by-product of Proverbs 27:17: “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

5 thoughts on “Filings: Rich kids

  1. What a blessing you have in those girls. I’m sure there were still challenges in raising them, but it certainly looks like they’re on their way to becoming great adults. I always remember a pastor of ours telling of a ‘liberal minded’ mother he knew who always gave him a hard time about how he raised his kids, and how they need more freedom and this and that. He said he lost track of her for a time, and when he saw her again the kids were in their late teens. She told him how she hated her kids and what they had become. You need to instill an awful lot early into a childs life.

  2. You’re welcome, MBMc, and thanks for the comment.

    You know, this makes me wonder how much George Soros gives directly to charity, compared to the millions spent to put people into office to enforce the “common good” (while actually consolidating power).

  3. GE – the amount isn’t important, it’s an attitude of being open to give, even if it’s just a little. You don’t know what even a little bit will do for someone else, and especially for yourself.

    One time when times were tight I went to church on Wednesday night with $3 in my pocket for my lunch money the rest of the week. Before the service started I overheard a young couple talking about being on their last diaper and not having enough money to buy more before the end of the week. I figured I could scrounge some food at home or do without if I had to, but (having had little ones) knew that no diapers was a desperate situation. I gave the father my $3 – and the next two days, out of the blue, different people took me out to lunch. There are many more examples from my life I could cite, but suffice it to say that the scripture “He gives seed to the sower, and bread for food” is true in my life.

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