Our Pastor was finishing up a short series on giving. I think many pastors hate doing "the money talk", but ours looked forward to it. My favorite part of the series was when he pointed out that we need to give out of our story, out of how generously we have been blessed by our generous God. So often we give out of duty, out of a set of rules or expectations...or even guilt. Instead, we should give out of grateful hearts, remembering what has been given us.
OK, fast forward to the end of the service on week two of the two-week series. (I told you it was short!) That is when the pastor makes his plug for more sacrificial giving to the church, right? Kicks off a building campaign, right? Nope. Instead, the ushers came forward with handfuls of white envelopes. Each family got an envelope. Inside the envelopes? Cash! No less than $20 and one envelope even had $1000. What were these for? We were to use the contents to bless someone else in need. It was to be done personally (not given to an organization). Other than that, the sky is the limit.
Wow. Who would expect the church to give us money instead of ask for more?
The hope is that this money will bless our city in all sorts of small ways. We pray that God multiplies it in the lives affected. However, what is going on in our hearts is even bigger than that.
Many in our church family have found themselves challenged by this project. Giving money away should be easy...but it hasn't been for many. We are learning.
Here is what my family is learning anew: First, we live insulated from people in need. We don't cross paths with the poor. Our daily travels and associations have us around people with plenty. Maybe not everything they want, but plenty. We like it that way, we don't have to feel the pain of others if we don't see them. Ouch.
Those we do know, we don't know well enough to know what they need. We know our neighbors--we wave, borrow tools from each other, talk about all sorts of things. Yet, as we thought of our neighbors, we couldn't identify if anyone was struggling in a way we could bless them. Yes, we know this one is recently divorced, this one is a relatively new widow, this one is out of work. We know circumstances, but not what they need.
It's terribly convicting. We have money to give away and don't know who to bless with it, or who needs it. Yikes.
So, we've come up with a few ideas. Don't you worry--we will bless someone. But. But the real (however painful) blessing is ours. We've been given the gift of awareness. We thought that because we care about the less fortunate, we sponsor a compassion child, we make a few charitable donations, that meant we were caring for the needy.
However, the needy are all around us. I know it. I also now know I don't really know anything about any of them... I'm so glad my white envelope of cash has shone light on my ignorance. I pray that God gives me His eyes to see the needs all around me, to be willing to be involved in messy situations, and to give to others out of the generous Gift I've been given.