“You sold your boat?!”
I wasn’t sure that I had heard one of our TCT trainers correctly. He had said it so frankly, with not a trace of regret or sadness in his voice. It was December 2012, just a few months after violent riots between Buddhists and Muslims had ripped through the area. One particular village of believers was painfully caught in the middle of it. Seeing their desperate need, the TCT trainer had sold his boat – his primary means of transportation – so the village could have food.
A thousand questions raced through my mind. Was it a wise choice? How would he manage to get around? There had to have been a less costly way to help the village. I was humbled and astounded by how freely he had given up a valuable possession. The stories from Acts about the early believers came to mind. “There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 4:34-35)
I admit I have never sold a valued possession in order to give. I have given away less valuable possessions – clothes and books and other things that were really just creating clutter anyway. Was that really generosity?
It’s tough to peg what generosity really means. Does it mean giving 10%? 23.3% percent? Or are we all supposed to be like the widow and her two coins and give everything away?
2 Samuel 24 tells the story of King David as he seeks to make a sacrifice to God. A man named Araunah comes to David and offers to freely give him everything he needs – the oxen, the wood, and the space for the altar. But David replies, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”
This Christmas season, that verse keeps turning over in my mind. Yes, we all become a bit more generous this time of year. But is it generosity that actually costs us anything? When I hear the stories from churches in our TCT program, I realize that the size and nature of a truly costly gift is different for each of us. It’s not always purely financial. Sometimes it’s the cost of comfort or security, like giving up the only spare blanket in the house for another family in need. Sometimes it’s the cost of labor, like working hard all week and then spending your little bit of spare time hauling dirt under a sweltering sun to repair a road. Sometimes it’s the cost of pride, like cleaning the garbage out of the street while half the neighborhood stops to stare.
The point of all this is not to give everyone a special helping of guilt this season. The point is to think about what is really valuable to us. In the midst of so much temptation and expectation to spend, how much time have we given to calculating what is really worth the cost?
Jesus told the story of a man who found a treasure hidden in a field and was willing to sell everything he had to have it. Jesus says that’s how valuable the kingdom of heaven is supposed to be to us. That’s why David insisted on giving a costly sacrifice. His heart’s desire was to give a valuable gift in order to show how much more infinitely valuable God was to him.
So this Christmas I’m thinking about what’s really valuable to me because that’s the costly gift I have to offer. Money, possessions, time, favorite Christmas traditions – whatever it is that God asks of me I pray that I have the courage to offer it, to sacrifice it for the sake of His kingdom. And the funny thing is that the thought of all this sacrifice actually is making me even more excited for the holiday! Jesus said that when the man found the treasure, he went away in joy, happily selling off his possessions because he knew something better was waiting for him.
The truth is our generosity this season can never match the generosity God showed to us. Christmas marks the time when God sent us the most costly gift possible – his Son. He knew what would happen to this most precious gift, but he gave freely anyway because he loved us. Our generosity can never match his. Yet we have the joy of being able to offer something really special in recognition of it, and hopefully the chance to show the world – through each costly gift – how much, much more valuable the Kingdom truly is.
Guest blogger Chelsea serves as Reconciled World’s TCT Myanmar Program Director. You can read more about her journey here.