Giving Sacrificially

This post has nothing to do with monarch butterflies, They are beautiful though and photos of sacrificial giving are not. Sorry if they tricked you into opening this. You can back out now if you don’t want to wade through my internal struggle spilled out on the screen. No judgement.

This whole “prosperity gospel” thing has really got me questioning lately. I know that I recently posted about it and I really had no intention of writing about it again. Yet here I sit with this concept stuck in my brain and I can’t seem to move past it. Just the other day I was chatting with a mom I didn’t know, let’s call her Jane, our kids were in an activity together and so we started talking. She attends a church that we’ve been screening over the summer and she was singing it’s praises a bit. I asked her why she loves this church and how she saw the church’s mission lived out in the day to day.

Her reply was good. She talked about the outreach she’s involved with and multiple other ministry projects she and her husband either lead or are a part of.  As she talked I thought about what she was saying and wondered if I was living my life with a similar passion for Christ. Honestly, since we left our church I’ve been floundering a bit. I know my mission field begins at home and I have embraced that fully, I do long to do more though and when I come across a person so willing to give of themselves I wonder if this is “all” I should be doing. Where could I squeeze time from my week that would not negatively affect my family?, where should I be volunteering?, am I filling enough of my children’s lives with God’s Word?, and on and on and on…

While her reply was good her appearance made me wonder and again question myself. She had a large diamond ring, North Face jacket, Nikes, she had manicured nails and a new haircut. Suffice it to say that she looked well off and I certainly wouldn’t assume she was struggling to make ends meet. While I know that I shouldn’t judge others, this woman’s appearance made it difficult for me to feel like she was an obedient servant of Christ. Please understand me, based on my brief interaction with her, she is doing all of the things right. I don’t know where this woman’s treasure lies and I am reserving my judgement of her. I am presenting this picture to you as an outsider myself. If I didn’t love the Lord, if I didn’t live as Jesus has quietly asked me to, if I didn’t trust that we each have to stand before Him for our own lives, then it would be easy to make the correlation that this woman “has” because she is living “right”.

What do people see when they see me? Today I had jeans on that actually fit, converse tennies that were actually not covered in garden dirt, and I actually brushed my hair before we left the house. Actually… I suppose that I looked well taken care of, like I’m not scrounging to buy groceries or struggling to pay the mortgage. Do people see the sacrifices my family makes to live a Godly life? Should I care if they do? Should I give up all of my stuff, wear the same dress every day and devote my time to prayer? Does it matter that all of my clothes are from second-hand shops? Does it matter that I purchase only the things that I absolutely have to in order to afford the things that I have to afford? Is it meaningful to anyone other than God that I wait for all things, assuming that the Lord will provide for my wants and needs if not always in the exact way that I expect Him to?

I think not, to all of that.

I think that standing next to Jane, I would look more like the poor widow from Mark’s gospel. Giving all I have while trusting in Him. Standing next to many other women I would look like one of the wealthy. Giving from a place of abundance isn’t always challenging or heart-changing. Perspective is tricky. When I look at myself I see my own sacrifices, I see where I scrimp and where I am extravagant. I suppose that since I have lived most of my life in this place just shy of earthly abundance, I can see myself on both ends of this spectrum. Perhaps my selfishness causes me to be jealous of those who have more than me and this selfishness allows me to judge them harshly. I mentioned Mark’s gospel;

‘Sitting across from the offering box, he (Jesus) was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”   Chapter 12: verses 41-44 from the Message Bible.

When I read those words, I am convinced that I am one of the wealthy, along with Jane. We are wealthy, she and I, perhaps she is more so than me, but that doesn’t matter. We live in abundance, giving what is comfortable, what is not challenging, what doesn’t take away too much of what we enjoy. Her level of income possibly allows her to give more than mine, but I still don’t go without (even occasionally) so that babies are fed or orphans are clothed. I feel the need here to mention that we do give to organizations and we do volunteer and give back, but it is from this justification that I see that I don’t give my all. Their is no sacrifice in my giving. I see the luxuries that I live with and while they seem “normal” to me I understand that they would be extravagances to others.

So how do I remedy this? How can I give from a place of abundance as though I were a poor widow giving all she had? Can I do that and still live in my house? Can I order out pizza twice a month and still give sacrificially? Can I spoil my children on birthday’s while still ensuring that the homeless are cared for? There are more questions without answer that I will keep in my head for now. I need accountability I think, when I live in this place of ease it is easy to forget that I am just passing through. I need reminders that take-out pizza, while time and sanity saving some days, is not necessary when people all over this earth aren’t eating at all today. I need the body of the church to speak to me that I can give more and I should give more and it doesn’t matter what she’s giving or how big her engagement ring is or how new her dress is. Basically I need to hear that it doesn’t matter what the people of this world do because what I do is what matters for my salvation. I also have to be okay with living (even more) differently than I already feel I do. If I am going to give from my abundance in a sacrificial way I am going to look (even more) different than I already do from the people around me. I am going to talk about things in a way that is (even more) different than what the world is gossiping about. I am going to teach, and lead, and help in ways that are unique to me and this mission I am on to show the world more of Jesus’ good and less of all that is bad.

This will not make me popular, I know. This will cause me to trust that even though I am different-maybe even a lot different-it’s okay. This is a choice I am making today for myself because I know that I am being asked to do more and that sitting here wondering over it will not produce anything good. I’m hoping that I can stay the course and that my slip-ups become fewer and farther between. This giving my all will not come naturally to me, based simply on how I have lived everyday until this one. So if you see me sipping a Caribou latte or wearing a new pair of jeans, please give me grace (and assume the latte was a treat from my husband and that the jeans came from the Goodwill). This is my path, I may stumble on it. I know where I’m headed though, so I’ll get back up and continue on again, hopefully a little lighter this time because I was able to give something away while I was on my knees.

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