Friday, April 23, 2010

Test God, Can You Out-Give Him?

"Tonight we had rice and milk for supper. We fed the family for about fifty cents and put the two dollars saved into a fund for the hungry. We do this almost every Sunday night." Ruth Gibson wrote about their family’s effort to help feed the poor in her book Chipped Dishes, Zippers and Prayers.

They saved about 100 dollars in a year’s time and donated the money to a charity that feeds the hungry. But with each bite of plain rice, an immeasurable lesson of sacrifice reached their hearts and their children’s. The Gibsons found a way to teach their family about personal giving even while living in our cappuccino, movie-going, air-conditioned, blessed society.

Ruth Gibson also wrote a prayer to God about their rice and milk meal. Within that prayer, she admitted her frustration at the immensity of the world’s hunger compared to her family’s meager gift. However, she laid her frustrations in the hands of the Maker of grain, the Inventor of Manna, the Supplier of All Good Things, our loving Father.

Every day God calls his followers to sacrifice in some way so they can better serve others. My sacrifices vary. Some days I give time, some days I give up sleep, some days I give cash. But what if a need comes along and I have little left to give? What if we’re already scraping the bottom of the peanut butter jar to make our kids’ school lunches? God says give anyway. Trust his provision-promises. He watches and supplies those who look beyond their own needs to the needs of others.

When God confronted Israel about their lack of tithes because they spent what they had only on themselves, he said, “‘Test me in this,’ says the LORD Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it’” (Malachi 3:10). I’m convinced that if all who could work would work and if we helped our disabled neighbors as God intended then governments would almost be out of the welfare business.

Some persons give to individuals and charities out of their abundance while others give out of their little. For either giver, a few spending adjustments will allow them to give even more. Families grow used to chicken dinners when a night of rice and beans could easily fill bellies. Sodas and expensive drinks are guzzled when tap water could be the beverage of choice. Sometimes the deciding factor is selfishness, an unwillingness to sacrifice personal wants.

I started a habit over five years ago that has become ingrained. When Dave and I exercise the privilege of eating in a restaurant, I order water instead of cola or iced tea. Then—periodically—that saved money is given to a charity. Dave remembers to tip the as if we’d ordered more expensive drinks because it’s just as much work for wait staff to bring water to the table.

If we eat two meals per week away from my kitchen (and we usually do), then about five dollars is saved. Multiply that times 52 weeks in a year, and that’s $260 for a charity. To me, giving up my cola is not as noble as a meal of plain rice, but it’s one way to increase my giving to others.

When compared to some sacrifices of now-a-days Christ-followers—imprisonment or dying for their faith—an iced tea forfeit remains a pittance. But God “opens the floodgates of heaven” toward the giver of a cup of water in his name to a $10,000 donation to drill a well in a remote village.

When we do without a luxury to help others—whether we skip a meal or forego a new change of clothes—God honors that charity. God benefits generous givers with more, enabling them to further donate.

In my life experience, God has proved to me that I can’t out give him. Has God already brought someone’s true need to mind as you read? Here’s a challenge—find someway to help, whether measured in volunteer hours or dollars or milk money.

Test God. But get ready. You will need to build bigger rooms—to hold all the blessings funneled your way.

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