Out of Context: Giving Living Water
Tue, 22 May 2012 - 10:46 AM CST
I watched in confusion as water poured out the base of the flower pot. My grandma gently explained that the shriveled plant did need lots of water, but it could only absorb a little at a time. I had poured too fast and flooded it. Like water to a thirsty plant, wise giving is restorative. Misguided giving can be as devastating as a flood.
Second Corinthians 9:7 tells us that God loves a cheerful giver. Generosity is central to a Christ-like life, but it's important to soak our giving in wisdom and prayer.
Out of Context
When we are exposed to tragedies like extreme poverty, natural disasters, disease, war, homelessness or human trafficking, it is natural to want to jump to the rescue immediately. This generous passion is admirable, but we must pause long enough to carefully examine both our hearts and our response plans. Sometimes pride or laziness can get in the way of true giving. We think short term. We give to organizations we know nothing about. We throw money at problems, hoping that will fix them, instead of striving to understand them. We forget that these problems have deep rooted and complex histories and can't be solved overnight. We know we're off-track when our giving becomes more about making ourselves feel better about suffering in the world than about compassionately serving the needy as our brothers. Giving wisely is difficult, and we will never be perfect at it. There is no way we can track every cent we donate, but we can take time to do some research, plan and pray.
The most precious gift stories told in the gospels are those which cost the most to the givers: the perfume Mary poured out on Jesus' feet (John 12:3), the last two coins offered by the peasant woman at the temple (Luke 21:1-4), and the ultimate gift, when Jesus poured himself out for us on the cross. A giving heart focuses on building loving, healing relationships to reflect the grace Christ showed us. It is not focused on huge, showy offerings or quick fixes. We should view the people we serve not as ones to be pitied and fixed, but as friends we can equip and encourage.
Matthew 10:8 says, "Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously" (The Message)
Want practical ideas?
• Pray specifically for the needs of the world with Operation World (operationworld.org).
• Give to well-established organizations like World Vision (worldvision.org) that have clear, loving goals and qualified people involved in the daily lives of the needy.
• Kiva (kiva.org) promotes microfinance, equipping people with a way to make their own livelihoods, promoting sustainable living instead of focusing on short-term relief, which often leads to dependency.
"Out of Context" columnists JESSICA RICH and KAILEY COPELAND are
friends, college students and sojourners. They enjoy music and
discussing real topics Christians face. They both live in Florida.