How can I give to everyone who asks me?
It’s a direct command from Jesus, but how do we put this into practice when we’re bombarded with so many requests? Fiona Mearns from UK charity Stewardship offers some advice
It’s Saturday morning in the supermarket. I’ve already run the gauntlet of the charity bag packers at the till, wincing as two small boys ram a bag of spuds on top of a loaf of bread and now I make for the exit, only to be accosted by someone with a clipboard. Would I consider making a monthly donation to this very worthy cause? A mere £5 a month would be all it takes to make a difference. The case is compelling and no doubt deserving, so do I sign on the dotted line or give my apologies and walk away?
It’s become a normal part of life to be bombarded by these kinds of requests as we shop, watch television, read newspapers, open e-mails or pick up our post. The 24-7 culture has extended to the charity world and it can feel like an assault to the senses. Each time I check my e-mails, the imploring eyes of a child pop up urging me to save a life. I could probably text away my monthly income if I responded to each appeal and I’ve lost count of the number of charity walks/runs/cycles/swims/bungee jumps that I’ve given to over the years.
So when Jesus says to his disciples in Luke 6:30 “give to everyone who asks you”, where does that leave us?
Before we end up feeling inadequate and over-faced by this tall order, it’s worth going right back to basics; to the place where all things start. Our God is the ultimate giver and John 3:16 says everything you need to know about his generosity. If we are to cultivate an attitude of generosity borne out of God’s love rather than our own guilt or striving to do what’s right, then we need to start by acknowledging how much he’s given us. Only by being good receivers can we be good givers. The Message paraphrase of the passage in Luke sums it up with the words “Live generously”. So how do we learn to do that and reset ourselves to our maker’s settings?
+ Be thankful. Spend time giving thanks for what God has blessed us with in our life. Start by doing a quick inventory of what is at our disposal: time, skills or knowledge, our home and family, car, money and give thanks for these ‘gifts’. Prayerfully consider how God might want us to share these with others. Ask ourselves if there are areas we are holding back on, either because we don’t consider them of worth or we’re hanging on to them too tightly.
+ Be intentional. Work out a financial budget – that way we can be thoughtful and intentional about what we give financially. Planning our giving and assessing the proportion of our income available to give away allows us to make informed decisions.
+ Make it personal. Think about the people and causes that God has put on our hearts – not everyone has the same passions and personal experiences. What is the best response to each opportunity? It may be financial giving, but it may be prayer that God will supply all their needs. We may feel a call to be an advocate, raising awareness of an issue in the local church or campaigning on their behalf. Use discernment when considering requests for help. Is it actually what is needed, or might there be a better way for us to give?
+ Be available. There will always be the emergency appeal which requires an immediate response, but also be alert to God’s opportunities. Being spontaneous may not come naturally to all of us, but developing spiritual antennae to respond to the request out of the blue is part of the generous journey. That may be the big news item, but equally it may be a small kindness we can offer a neighbour or friend.
By taking time to pray and think about who or what we give to and being intentional about it, we’ll be able to tune in to what God is saying to us about our giving; start to live more generously and take our lead from him on the generous journey.
+ Stewardship is the leading UK charity helping the Christian community in the UK to give and to receive. For more information visit www.stewardship.org.uk or call 020 8502 5600.