image by Lizzie from Unsplash
Being giving is a natural and necessary mark of spiritual growth.
"But as you abound in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us--see that you abound in this grace also. I speak not by commandment, but I am testing the sincerity of your love by the diligence of others." (v 7-8)
If we are seeking spiritual growth in spiritual disciplines but find ourselves hard, reluctant, or grudging when it comes to giving--why should I give, if they've never given me anything? why should I be the one when no one else has? but do they really deserve it? what right do they have to my own money/time/effort?--we may need to reconsider whether we are neglecting this important aspect of spiritual growth.
"And in this I give advice: it is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there also may be a completion out of what you have."
It is easy to talk about love, but the Bible calls us to "love not in word and speech but in deed and truth." (1 John 3:18)
Lest we become complacent, excusing ourselves that "God only looks at the heart anyway, and it's not like I don't want to, soooo I'm good I guess?" Paul calls us to remember that the desire ought to naturally be completed by the action.
"For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack--that there may be an equality." (v 13-14)
If true giving stems from the understanding that our possessions are from God, and the giving of them is both an expression of the unity in Christ and a means of spiritual growth in Christ, then a flip-side (which is often overlooked!) is that we need to receive as well as we give.
We need to give willingly, with humility. We also need to receive willingly, with humility.
Too often in our desire to give, to show love, we end up having (what I call) the Mom-friend syndrome--being that friend who is always stable, always strong; always there to provide a listening ear, a shoulder to lean on, a helping hand. But in our own times of need, we feel awkward and unsure, even guilty; we don't know how to ask for help, how to respond or accept when others offer their help. Perhaps it's even unconsciously become something we pride ourselves on, and we can't bear to destroy the facade we've created. I had to realize this about myself.
But this, heroic as it may seem to us, is downright unhealthy and definitely unBiblical. Not only are we depriving others of their opportunity to learn how to be giving, we encourage the wrong understanding of giving as a one-way thing, for ourselves and for them.
It takes humility to accept help, to acknowledge your neediness; and vulnerability to accept others when they try to help. Courage, to risk being hurt or not understood, having clumsy but well-meant attempts possibly cause us more pain or hurt our pride.
For some of us, we need to learn to be more giving. Some of us need to learn to receive. Some of us need to learn how to do both, better.
Being giving is something every Christian must learn in their journey of spiritual growth, yet something they cannot learn in isolation--something which once again reinforces our need for community in the Christian life.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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