On Sunday mornings when the offertory plate is passed through the pews, our pastor reminds us that we are to be joyful givers. I always found this term, “joyful”, to be out of place. How could letting go of my personal possessions – money – be a “joyful” activity? I give because I know the church needs funds to pay the bills, has some foreign missionaries and I feel guilty if I don’t “share the wealth”.
It has taken me a while but I’ve come to realize that learning to give is a process that we go through. Just as a caterpillar goes through metamorphosis to become a butterfly, so too we humans need to develop into people who enjoy giving. Here are the phases that I had to pass through before I was able to become a joyful giver:
- Want: The first phase was all about me. What were the material things that I wanted and how could I get them? This phase has no room for any type of giving because it is all based on taking. I justified this phase because I was young, was working hard and earning a good salary. I needed to buy a nice car, furniture, clothing and enjoy nice vacations. Nothing else mattered.
- Need: Soon I found myself married with three children that I was responsible for. It was no longer just about me. Now others had needs and wants and were looking to me to satisfy them. I started to think about “our” future and realized that the future would cost a lot of money: private school, college, sports, vacations, insurance policies and a bigger house. I had to save money to be ready for all of the things that were coming my way. With all these costs and trying to save, I didn’t have much left over to give away.
- Give: Moving to the next phase takes either a lot of passion for a good cause or a spiritual awakening. I took the spiritual awakening path. If you don’t have a spiritual faith, this might be difficult to understand. If you do, then you will understand that there is a higher power that we worship and this takes the focus off of “me” and puts it on someone or something else. For me it was Christ. And being a Christ follower I’ve learned that all of my blessings come from Him and really belong to Him. So it really isn’t my “stuff” but its His. I’m just a steward of His possessions.
- Joyful Giving: Joyful giving requires a mindset change. You come to realize that you are very blessed and that these blessings don’t belong to you and that you can’t take them with you when you pass away. You also experience joy by seeing the impact that your giving has on another person. Some of the first experiences I had of this joy were giving presents to homeless children at Christmas or serving Thanksgiving dinner at a prison.
Giving doesn’t have to be financial. It can take many different forms, depending on how we are blessed and what season of life we find ourselves in. Financial giving is one way and often times the easiest way. For many people it is easy and non-committal to write a check and not be bothered anymore. However, adding another “0” onto the check might change the comfort level a bit!
Other ways of giving are with our time or our talents. Spending time with people in a retirement home or reading books to inner city children might be a great way to give of yourself. If you have a skill that can help others, then this would be another form of giving. A lawyer can offer some of his time pro bono; a mom could cook a meal for a family in need. A dad could coach a little league team.
- The final phase of joyful giving: This is a really tough phase to enter into. It is the anonymous phase and it is realized when you are able to give without receiving any kind of recognition: no name on a building, no platinum donor recognition, not even a thank you. You are invisible and no one knows you have given except for your creator. This type of giving is built on faith alone.
My biggest wish is that my children would understand that giving is not only expected of us but that it is good and it brings real joy. Hopefully I’ve been able to role model this for them.