by Shelly Esser
Several years ago the news was all abuzz with the huge charitable donation that was given to The Salvation Army. Do you remember the story? Millions of dollars were generously donated. Can you imagine? I’ve often fantasized about how I would use my money if I were wealthy. Every time someone wins the lottery I find my mind wandering. It would be great to be able to give a sizeable check to an orphanage overseas, build a facility for some needy ministry, or have extra cash on hand to give away any time someone had a financial need. But I am not wealthy - at least not by the world’s standards.
What Do I Have To Give?
So often when we think about money we’re using the wrong measuring stick, missing an important spiritual reality in the process. How many times have I wallowed in self pity because I didn’t have more money? “If only I had more, then I could really help people,” I’ve often thought. Spiritually-speaking we are the wealthiest people on earth and it is out of that abundance that we are to live a life of generosity. The call to be generous has nothing to do with monetary wealth. At the heart of it is an attitude, a lifestyle, and as Christians it’s something we are to excel in. II Corinthians 8:7 says, “…see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”
While I may not be able to afford to buy a friend a car she needs, I can lend her mine. I can’t write a check for $10,000 to our city’s Rescue Mission, but I can give a couple hours a week to serve in their kitchen, feeding the poor. We don’t have to have a lot of money to be wealthy and to give all we have. 2 Corinthians 8:12 says, “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” According to what one has! So often we focus on what we don’t have, failing to recognize the wealth we already possess - a wealth that God is waiting for us to give away. I am not responsible for what I don’t have, or what I wish I had. I’m responsible for what I have. It’s a great mistake to give nothing because you can only give a little.
My gift is acceptable – whatever it is – based on what I’ve been given. So let me take inventory. What wealth do I have to give away? I don’t have a large bank account, but I have a comfortable home, food, material blessings, time, vehicles, clothes, and, most importantly, spiritual treasures. Let’s see, where can I begin distributing my wealth? I can give away some of the clothes my girls have outgrown to people who need them, I can make a meal for a sick friend or new mom, I can invite people over for dinner, I can write a check to support a missionary friend, I can offer to wallpaper and paint a family member’s house, I can babysit for a single mom, I can regularly pray with a hurting friend, I can send a card of encouragement, I can have my kids collect the almost-new toys they no longer play with and give them away to those without, I can share my faith….the list is endless. “The gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” Francis Quarles said, “He that gives all, though but little, gives much because God looks not to the quantity of the gift but to the quality of the giver.” God looks at the heart, not the hand – the giver, not the gift.
What Have I Been Given?
The tendency is to get sidetracked with what we perceive to be our poverty. I remember moving into one of the wealthiest areas of the country when my husband was in seminary. I never experienced wealth like that before. Suddenly I felt poor. Compared to the extravagant lifestyles around me I had nothing. How in the world could I minister in such a place? My whole apartment was the size of most people’s walk-in closets! But God began to show me a wealth I possessed that the wealthiest people around me lacked – all the riches that were mine because I was Christ’s. As humbling as it was for me to open my meager apartment to the women I was meeting, I knew that God was asking me to give away my very self and to share the treasures He had given me. Suddenly, I realized that it was I who was the wealthy one! “The gift is acceptable according to what one has.” What I had was incredible spiritual wealth! I could give that away! God wants to take what we have – big or small – offered to Him, and spend it.
In the early church, the believers were constantly sharing their wealth with anyone who had need. Acts 4:32 says, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.” And in vs. 34 and 35, “There were no needy persons among them.” Imagine that. “For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” What a picture of generosity – of giving away the wealth they had. I wonder how the lives of people around us would change if we shared our wealth like that. When we are sharing our wealth with those God calls us to, we are simply taking our hands off what already belongs to Him. Nothing we have belongs to us, and God has given each of us a great wealth of treasures in time, material blessings, talents, and spiritual riches that are meant to be shared. It is a sacred trust and we are to excel in giving it away.
The world asks, “What does a man own?” Christ asks, “How does he use it?” Christ is the source of all our wealth and it is in giving away that we become rich. We become poor by holding on to it. How are you using your wealth? Are you letting God spend it for the sake of others? Our culture values the size of the gift, but “the gift is acceptable according to what one has”!