Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rational Giving

Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8.

As we were giving to our annual church missions’ offering this year, I daydreamed back to a church service over twenty years ago when my family and I were medical missionaries in Nigeria. I envisioned again a service of thanksgiving in the town of Sanubi. Sanubi is a small village inhabited by the poorest people I will ever know. The wealthy are those who are able to afford concrete to cover the usual dirt floors. That day in my memory we were attending a Sunday service in Sanubi Baptist Church. After completing the standard church worship service, Becky and I were heat-wilted and ready to leave when an entirely new service began, a thanksgiving service. Lining up at the back of the sanctuary, men and women began singing songs of praise and marching down the aisle to deposit their gifts of thanksgiving to God. It was thanksgiving for crops that didn’t fail, for children who survived and for food that was provided. This was the most heart-felt joyous service of giving I! have ever witnessed. It was irrational and joyous giving.

Most of us as doctors are privileged economically. As such, we are inundated by hands held out asking for donations. Our giving, therefore, often becomes a chore as we have to choose to whom we say “yes” and to whom we say “no”. We are also burdened by the realization that saying “yes” to many is saying “no” to our families. We end up having to calculate in rational ways how to divide our donations so that we can reasonably meet all of our goals for our giving and for our families. It is a far cry from joyous giving. Yet, half way around the world, and perhaps next door, people who have next to nothing are marching down the aisles giving to the Lord in irrational, joyous ways out of thanksgiving for His gifts to them.

Such “irrational” giving is only irrational if it is based on principles that govern the world: that we are our own security, that we deserve the financial blessings we possess and that our goals for living supersede the goals and plans of the Creator. If instead we base our rationality on the truths of life, such as absolute security in God, God’s love for all people, His desire for us to partner with Him in His redemptive work and the blessings He has poured out for us and the “irrational” Cross. If we understand these truths of life, then perhaps we can join those who dance down the aisles, and give our donations to His Kingdom work with true, rational joy.

Dear God,
Help me to remember all You have done for me and let that memory become the foundation from which I offer back the blessings that You have poured into my hands, to accomplish your work of love in this world. Amen

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