by Sarah Shaul
Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously…. - Luke 6:35 (MSG)
This past Christmas, my office had the opportunity to help support a Vietnam veteran and his wife through a gift drive (initiated by the local VA). I solicited donations from my coworkers for a group-sponsored gift card. Most people were happy to give the few dollar donation I suggested. One woman, however, resisted the idea. “How do you know the gift card will be used for something useful?” she questioned. “They could just go buy beer if they wanted to.” I was surprised at her apparent stinginess. Instead of expressing my frustration, I smiled politely and agreed there was no guarantee the gift would be used for necessities; that was the chance we took. I explained how donating was voluntary, and I would harbor no hard feelings if she decided to not give. Not surprisingly, she didn’t donate.
How can she be so selfish? I grumbled to myself later. It’s only a few dollars. Besides, it’s not about money at all. It’s about showing a family in need someone cares about them. Why can’t she just trust the gift will be received and used in gratefulness? Or, more specifically, why can’t she trust that God will guide the family to use it where it will do the most good?
For several days I bore frustration over this interaction (so much for no hard feelings). My anger eventually dissipated when I realized I’m often no different from my coworker (ouch!). How often has God asked me to give something small--time, talent, money--to help another person but I tell Him no? I argue that I won’t know how my minimal investment will be used, if it will be appreciated, or if I’ll even be acknowledged. Talk about stingy! God reminded me that true giving is never about me and my expectations of control, return, or recognition. Giving without expectation is about showing someone in need that God cares about them, more than I care about myself. It is a reminder for me that God is faithful and “works everything for the good” (Romans 8:28 NIV).
This most recent situation was no exception. After Christmas, the veteran’s wife sent a thank you note to my office. She explained how the gifts provided by the staff were the only gifts she and her husband received that Christmas. She described how her husband couldn’t work, as he was severely ill and suffered from PTSD (she even alluded to his current mental state as suicidal). She served as his care provider, and her home-based business provided only a small income.
My heart broke as I read of their desperate situation. But I also marveled at God’s faithfulness: through this woman’s message, He reminded me that a small investment, made with faith and trust in Him, can make an unimaginable difference to others. I won’t always receive such clear confirmation that my gift has made a difference. I can only hope the next time God prompts me to give, I am reminded of this situation and His faithfulness, graciousness, and generosity.
Do you want to share how God's presence has affected your life? We're always looking for more writers! If you're interested in contributing to the blog on a regular or one time basis, contact Sarah Shaul for more details, firstname.lastname@example.org.