There is one phrase in the Bible in which we learn so much about the nature of God and the nature of people:
“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that whosoever should believe in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
“For God so loved … that He gave.” That’s who God is. Because He loved, He gave. And I believe that’s the only real reason for giving — because you love. It has been said, you can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving. We can give out of fear and guilt and because we’re worried about what people will think, and out of responsibility. We can give without loving; but we can’t love without giving. It’s the nature of God and it’s the nature of who we are. “For God so loved … that He gave.”
Each year, we take time within the church to look at what our budget will be for the following year. It allows the church to live within our means and plan accordingly. We talk about stewardship and how we will give of our time, talents and money in the year ahead. I want to share three ideas with you that can make a difference in how you give of yourself.
#1 Experience grace
First of all, I believe, when you and I experience the grace of God and know that we are loved and forgiven, no matter what, we discover what it means to be accepted. You finally feel good about yourself when you really understand that God loves you. You’re able to love yourself and love others. But knowing we are loved doesn’t mean we can’t forget at some point. When we forget, we do things like compare ourselves with others. We base our worth on the opinions of others, material possessions and job titles. Instead of being generous, we think to ourselves, “Why should I give to you if I don’t have everything I want and need? We struggle and convince ourselves that if we just get MORE, everything will be ok.
#2 Pray for others
Secondly, I’ve discovered that when I am praying for others, I am more loving and I am more giving. It’s hard to pray for someone and hate them at the same time! I think it’s important for us to reflect on our prayer life to see what we are spending the most time praying about. Is it about myself, my own wants, needs and fears? When I pray, am I usually praying for myself or do I spend time praying for others? Look at your prayer life. How much do you spend time praying for others? Do you pray for your spouse, your grandchildren, your neighbor, your friends? It makes a difference in how we feel toward one another.
When I’m taking the time to pray for others, to pray for Christ and his church, to pray for a cause I believe in, I care; and so I am more willing to give - because I care. How do you spend most of your prayer life? What are you praying about?
#3 A life of meaning
Third, I think we discover that, through caring for others, we truly become alive. Our lives take on purpose and meaning when we share with others. If we’re not careful, we can go through life always focused on how we can gain more. If I can just buy this and get that bigger house or get that promotion, I’ll finally have those clothes or take this trip — then I’ll be happy. The truth is, something is always missing. It’s because we really have what we need right now today to find meaning and purpose. The joy of living simply means that we choose to love and share ourselves with others. And that’s when life becomes different! We get to choose how we will serve, ho we will share ourselves, what we will give. “For God so loved the world that He gave…” You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.