Giving and sharing with other people no matter what it is, whether it’s small or big is always a blessing, especially for the giver. We feel good about ourselves when we give, just as God promised ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ Acts 20:35. As Christian, we are called to give and share, but what motivates us to give and what does our giving look like? How is Christian giving different from the others?
People are doing charity around the world. We see millions and millions of people who are giving in one way or another, there are thousands of organizations raising fund to help the poor no matter what kind of religion they follow. In chapter one of Generous Justice, Keller described the private giving to the poor as doing justice not doing charity.He reasoned ‘In English, however, the word ‘charity’ conveys a good but optional activity. Charity cannot be a requirement, for then it would not be charity. But this view does not fit in with the strength or balance of the Biblical teaching’. As Jordan shared in Monday’s post, Keller reminds us ‘In the Scripture, gifts to the poor are called ‘acts of righteousness’ as in Matthew 6:1-2. Not giving generously, then, is not stinginess, but unrighteousness, a violation of God’s law’. When examining chapter 31 of the book of Job, Tim made an observation ‘He (Job) calls every failure to help the poor a sin, offensive to God’s splendor (verse 23) and deserving of judgment and punishment (verse 28). Remarkably, Job is asserting that it would be a sin against God to think of his goods as belonging to himself alone. To not “share his bread” and his assets with the poor would be unrighteous, a sin against God, and therefore by definition a violation of God’s justice.’
Churches in the TCT program have understood this truth and are living it out. Their generous giving came from understanding the great commandment ‘love God and love your neighbor as yourself’. They don’t often have many material things to give because they are also poor but what they have they give, in the following story, it’s time and labor. Let’s listen to their story.
There is one church with only 10 families. After they completed Module 1, they wanted to show God’s love by harvesting the crop for a family, whose wife had a heart attack and having surgery at the hospital. The husband had to look after his wife in provincial hospital so he could not go back home to harvest the coming crop. Some of this family’s relatives didn’t care about them so they didn’t help; the others were busy with their fields. Seeing the need of this family the church mobilized 30 people to help harvesting the one acre field. They didn’t just harvest but thresh the rice, transport to their home and they even brought their own lunch to eat. When this couple came back from the hospital they were very surprised and moved by the church’s act of love. At the hospital they both very worried about her illness, the medical bill and losing the crop which is their main income of the year because they couldn’t harvest the rice at the right time. But when they came home they found out that the church had helped to harvest and carry it home they were very happy. They were grateful for everyone in the church and they accepted Jesus as Lord. Nine others families in the village also accepted Jesus when they saw God’s love expressed through the people in the church. They said, ‘We want to believe in God because for a long time we were seeking love but could not find anywhere but now we found it in your church’. The pastor replied ‘you will meet a greater love that is of Jesus the Savior. When I (our trainer) visited the church, there was one more family that had accepted Christ, another one opened their heart and wanted to believe in God. Praise the Lord for He used the obedience of His people to bless others physically and spiritually!
You may ask ‘why is the phrase ‘they even brought their own lunch to eat’ worthy of mentioning in this story? As tradition, the owner of the field must provide food and alcohol for everyone who comes to help and because of that there’s not much profit left for the owner and sometime they made a loss. Seeing the benefit from what the church has done, now, everyone is willing to help without asking for food or alcohol. ‘Bringing their own lunch’ helps people to have more profit from their crop and speaks Biblical truth to their culture.
The Christians in this church have followed God’s heart and justice for the poor as He said in Deuteronomy 10:18-19 “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” As Tim Keller phrased it this truth beautifully, these churches have made ‘radical generosity one of the marks of living justly.’
The next church has shown us that they gave generously beyond their ability to care for the well being of people in their community and neighboring village. They didn’t do charity but they walked in obedience to God’s word using what God already gave them to bless others. Here is their testimony:
After learning about Health and seeing the importance of hygiene in keeping people healthy and preventing illnesses, our church decided to build two water tanks to bring clean water to our community. Each family contributed $75 (equivalent to one month salary) to buy cement and pipe. The water source was 2 miles away from our village, so we built one small tank there to filter the water and a bigger tank in the community and connected pipes to all the houses. When the local government heard about this project they wanted to participate because they felt bad allowing the church to do it alone and they also wanted to use some of this water. They asked about the cost of the project and when we told them it was just $3,000 they said “if we did this project it would cost us $10,000”. Still doubting about what they heard and saw, the chairman of the ward asked again if an outsider had funded this project. Our secretary showed the chairman the name list of those who contributed money and explained the reason why we built the water-tanks. The reason is farmers are careless when using chemical fertilizer and weed killers (pesticides) and had caused the water to be polluted in this area. If people used this water they would get sick. The local government decided to build 3 more small tanks and connect them to our water, each of them cost $3,500 while the size of their tank was only one fifth of the tank built by our church. The chairman said that he would present this to the provincial government to invest more in this community because if they let the church do it alone then the provincial government would criticize them for not caring for the community. Before, our church waited for outsiders to complete projects in our area, but through TCT we know that we need to rely on God and stand on our feet to meet the needs of our community. Not only did we contribute money but also labor to collect rocks and sand, 70 of the 80 families in our community joined in the work, we only spent money on cement and pipe. The Chairman was still not convinced and asked if we had hired a professional builder because he thought that it was impossible for us to do all the work. Our village chief replied ‘We are the ones who mobilized the people because in this area we don’t have clean water, we contributed the money and the list is still here”. Finally, the chairman admitted “Because you believe in God, He has blessed you so you are able to do this. If I asked people in my village to give $5, they would run away”
When I first heard this story, I noticed that the chairman asked three times about the funds, the ability and the purpose of what the church had done. Why? The answer is because he couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that these poor Christians, looked down by everyone could give so generously and were able to do something that seemed impossible. That’s what we call Radical Generosity.
I think we need to challenge ourselves with this question. Are we doing charity and give whenever we feel like or are we radically following God’s heart for the poor like these ‘little’ churches and give generously as He has given us generously?