Over Spring break, I went with my mom to her regular Sabbath School group, since we're recently lacking a collegiate group at our church. The topic for the week was "giving."
Two things struck me as we were talking:
1.) What is true generosity? And
2.) What does the Bible really say about giving to those in need?
I find myself always "giving back." I'm constantly pushing myself to give, but not for the right reasons. Even the slightest things trigger an impulse, "give back" my mind tells my body, and immediately that person and their gift are ingrained in my head, until I can repay them with my own gift. But then is that really a gift? More like one more thing I need to check off my to-do list.
1.)something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.
2.)something bestowed or acquired without any particular effort by the recipient or without its being earned:
I have this friend who just LOVES giving, and she inspires me everyday. She keeps giving and giving of herself. Time, objects, money, I can hardly keep up! I always feel the need to repay her. Sometimes, I even try to beat her to the punch line and give her something before she can give ME something, because I know she will. It's almost become a game, and I feel that generosity has nothing to do with it. Is this guilt driven action even considered giving? Or is it more a chore? Can it even be considered generosity? It's not from the goodness of my heart, so maybe it doesn't mean anything at all? But I really do love my friend, and I value our friendship more than any gift could say. That is the gift, our raw friendship. But maybe "giving" is the wrong way of showing this.
One of the ladies in the group made the comment that the Bible says, "if you can't work, you can't eat." This really threw me for a loop. What?! The Bible actually SAYS that?! But what about the verse that talks about serving others? What happened to "anything you've done unto the least of these, you've done also to me" and our responsibility to take care of those in need? Why would the Bible say (in other words) "get off your lazy bums and earn your share!" This made me curious. So I looked it up. Sure enough, in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 it says, "If a man will not work, he shall not eat." But reading this verse with a bit more context, verses 10-13:
"Don't you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? 'If you don't work, you don't eat.' And now we're getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep. Friends, don't slack off in doing your duty."
I don't think the Bible is literally saying if you don't work you can't eat. What about those stay at home mom's? What about those beggars on the side of the road in the towns Jesus walked through? He showed compassion for them, and we are to also. I DO think the Bible is encouraging people to be diligent, consistent, energetic, hard workers.
"Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth." -Proverbs 10:4
"How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest -- and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man." -Proverbs 6:9-11
A man came and talked at our school for Chapel last week about his experience as a homeless man. He took a year out of college and choose to live on the streets and go hungry for the experience. I actually really want to do this, but being a girl, I feel it would be impossible to be safe. He told about how one day he went into this sandwich shop, smelly, dirty, and hungry, and sat in the corner. 3 different Bible study groups walked in the door not long after he'd been there, one after another. These people bought sandwiches and opened their Bibles for discussions. Each group eventually saw the others and their Bibles wide open, and decided to make a joint study group. Not once did these groups of christians even acknowledge the presence of this hungry man. His story broke my heart. How often I find myself doing the same thing. Avoiding eye contact and walking swiftly past the beggars on the street to avoid confrontation. This speaker told us that after his experience of being homeless, every week he would go out on the streets and find homeless people, give them a hug and talk with them. One homeless guy told the speaker that their conversation had been the first he'd had in a week. He was the first guy that gave him the time of day. Sad. Wrong. Selfish. And yet, I am to blame. How do I fix this problem? How do I love those I've grown to deem as "unlovable"??? Where do I start? What can I do NOW? What can I give to make the difference? And how do I give as a gift?