“Freely you have received; freely give.” (Matt. 10:8)
This instruction has been tormenting me for quite some time now. Probably for a couple of years, to be honest. The Message puts it this way: “You have been treated generously, so live generously.”
Jesus said this phrase in the middle of his instructions to the disciples before sending them out two-by-two to preach the Kingdom of Heaven (the Great Commission) and help the needy (the Great Commandment). If we are Christ-followers, then Jesus is speaking the exact same phrase to us. But what does that look like in the 21st century?
Several years ago, when researching the origins of Global Orphan Sunday, I came across a moving story about the very first Orphan Sunday in a poor local church in Zambia. The pastor passionately called his congregation to donate to the cause of helping the orphans and widows in their AIDS-ravaged community, and, inspired to action, people started coming forward, giving generously, money, food, and some even taking the shoes off their feet to help those in need.
Just the other day, I read an inspiring story about a church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who proved that this same generosity is possible in North America. One Sunday, the pastor of that church decided to surprise his congregation and ask them to donate the money in their wallets, their coats and boots, and deposit them all at the front of the church during worship. Their “Sunday Best” would be donated to an inner-city street ministry. “The challenge was to give our best as worship to God,” he explained. What happened next is amazing: One man didn’t have any cash on him, so he quickly drove to an ATM and came back with an envelope stuffed full. Another woman, who had finally bought the leather boots she had been eyeing for a while, at first walked to the front and gave only her coat as an offering. God called her on it as soon as she sat back down. The boots went too. (from Going Missional, Karen Stiller & Willard Metzger).
The question I have to ask myself is this: Am I willing to give whatever I have back to God, for Him to use as He sees fit? In Matthew 10, Jesus reminds us that God has dealt with us generously. God gives only the best, every single time. He gives lavishly, not holding back anything, even His only Son, for us humans who are ungrateful and don’t even really care most of the time.
Am I willing to give away my best – my “nice” things – or is it the stained shirts and frayed jeans that end up in the donation pile? If I have two coats (or most likely more) and I hear of a need for the homeless, do I give the good one away, knowing that I have enough, and God will take care of me? What about giving some of my dishes (not the chipped ones) to a young single mom who is trying to make ends meet and can’t afford to buy any. Would I donate my good spare car to a family, so the father can keep his job? The perfectly good food that lands in the trash after dinner, the cute sandals collecting dust on the shoe shelf, the time I spend mindlessly watching TV, the money that buys my daily coffee & donut – aren’t they all symptoms of a selfish, uncaring, stingy heart? Isn’t our treasure in those things, instead of in the things above? “Live generously” is a very high calling, especially since we are to treat our neighbour the same way we treat ourselves. Suddenly, giving our “scraps” away doesn’t sound so glorious and honorable any more. According to Jesus, only when we are willing to part with everything, even life itself, for the sake of Him and others, we find a life worth living! (e.g. Luke 14)
I pray that God would motivate us to join together as a generation of Christians who are not afraid to live generously for His glory and the spreading of His Kingdom! May He begin with me!