How to Feel More Charitable

ImageI wrote recently about how I did not go back to Wal-Mart to get food for a family begging on the curb. Yesterday, I almost did it again, this time with a person sitting near the street corner. I’d had a long day, waking up stiff and sore, finishing a project for a friend, doing some tax homework, going to a job interview, then coming home for lunch before going out all afternoon to tax class. I was in a decent mood, but not feeling all that charitable.

There’s the part of me that wants them to just get jobs rather than ask for my money. Another part, and the one that drew me to the picture above, that says, “I feel like there’s always someone else that needs money, and I only have so much. Why does it seem like every time I give to one of these people that I’m the first that day to do it?” And these thoughts make me feel less and less charitable.

In Matthew 14, when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been killed in prison, He was sad and withdrew by boat to a deserted place. The crowds followed him, walking to where He was. Jesus could have told them to go away and let him mourn for his friend, second cousin, and the man chosen to prepare the way for Him. He could have been grumpy, even angry that they couldn’t leave Him alone for one day, but just kept coming with their needs.

But He had compassion on them and healed them.

When I passed up the family and almost passed up the other person, I didn’t feel like giving. I was being selfish. I had lost my compassion for them, forgetting how much they need food, how much uncertainty is playing through their minds, and most importantly, how much they need to be shown love.

People who beg are often homeless, destitute, and hungry. They smell bad, feel worse, and usually don’t reach old age. Then they have to put aside their pride and beg for charity, only to be ignored by 99% of the people who pass them. Be in the 1% who don’t, at least from time to time. Not because you seek a reward, even though Jesus promises one, but because God loves all these people every bit as much as He loves you. Because the concerns of this world will never be as important as the concerns of the soul. Because Jesus reached out to you when your soul was even poorer than they are physically. Because God has chosen to give you enough, not so you can live in a nice house with your xBox and go out to dinner and a movie every week, but so you can bless others as God has blessed you.

It’s not your money. It never has been.

In Jeremiah 27, God makes it clear that King Nebuchadnezzar, who conquered Israel, was His servant whom He had raised up. In Daniel, this same king boasts about his kingdom and God makes him as a beast of the field for a while. Then he comes to his senses and is restored, praising God. Job tells us that God gives, and God takes away. If He can raise up and throw down kings, can He not bless you greatly or take away everything from you as He sees fit? All that you have is because He allows you to have it, meaning that it is really His and not yours.

And if it is His, you should do His will with it.

When you go to work, you don’t do whatever you want (unless you’re the owner of the company). You do what your boss tells you to do the way the boss wants it done. Everything down to using the office equipment has to be done in accordance with the company’s rules because this stuff belongs to the company. It doesn’t matter how many times the printer jams, you have no right to take an ax to it because it’s not yours. You must do with it whatever your company wants you to do.

The upside is that when the company pays vendors, you don’t feel the pinch because it’s not your money.

Likewise, if everything you have isn’t really yours, then shouldn’t you do the will of Him who owns it all? All you have left is whether to obey or not, whether to remember how much others need to be shown the same love He has shown you. God will take care of you, but it is more important that you show love to others. “Freely have you received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8b.

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