“Why would you leave San Diego to go to Connecticut for Thanksgiving?” asked the man next to me on the plane. Sitting just one row away from First Class, I was pondering a different question at the time. Namely, I wondered, “Why do we cater so much to the rich when God asks us to help the poor?” Bobbye and I had just finished doing a radiothon for the Ventura Rescue Mission and I couldn’t help comparing the two lifestyles, especially while reading the book of James on the plane.
The closest most of us get to the poor is when we pull up to a stoplight and we read the sign of the man standing on the corner. Questions come to mind while assessing the person standing there: Are they really homeless? What would they spend the money on? Why are they homeless anyway? Isn’t it illegal for them to stand there? I believe that the reason we ask ourselves all these questions is an attempt to free us from the guilt of not giving while impatiently we wait for the light to change.
Over and over the Lord tells us to give to whoever asks. He doesn’t tell us to question the poor or to judge them, but He tells us to open our hand wide. Uck! How do we do that and why should we do that? In both the Old and New Testaments, there are verses like Deuteronomy 15:7-8 that say, “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs” and Luke 12:33, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”
These verses express God’s heart and will for us. But I found that I could not follow through in blind obedience. If I truly were to give freely to the poor, I would question what “freely” meant and would feel guilty that I didn’t give enough or that I did not give graciously and “cheerfully.” (2 Corinthians 9:7) Either way, I would feel badly. Obviously, I have struggled with this a lot. As a Christian, I want to please the Lord and to do what is right in His eyes. Also, as a Christian parent, I want to train my children in the ways of the Lord in everyday application, not just in memorizing Bible verses or having a lot of “head” knowledge.
So, I prayed about it. I asked the Lord to help me in my own every day application so that I can let my right hand freely give without my left hand interfering. (Matthew 6:3) His answer came in a variety of ways, ranging from the passengers in First Class to the Rescue Mission’s radiothon.
At the Rescue Mission, the homeless and helpless had nothing to offer and only one thing to give. They were asked to give their commitment to follow the program and to listen to those who freely gave of themselves to help them. I couldn’t help but compare this program and the homeless to the Lord and myself. The only difference between me and the person on the street is the grace of God. From God’s point of view, I am just as poor and wretched as the next person without the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.
God freely gave to us but it cost His Son, Jesus, everything. We were freely able to receive at someone else’s expense - Jesus’. All that He asks of us is our commitment to follow in His ways by listening to His instruction.
Part of His instruction has to do with our need to freely give to others as the Lord has freely given to us. He expects us to have the same heart towards others that we know God has toward us. Mercy triumphing over judgment. (James 2:13) The basic motivation for our every action needs to be rooted and grounded in love. Our first thought needs to be our willingness to act in love in whatever way the Lord leads. Love is not footloose and fancy free – it is deliberate and obedient to the Spirit’s leading. There is a discernment involved (as I learned from the Rescue Mission).
When I give to others to appease my guilt or to feel good, my giving becomes all about me; that does not display the love of the Lord. That is when we could end up with more guilt and doubt. We need discernment to know the difference between pleasing God and appeasing ourselves. Pleasing the Lord through our giving produces the fruit of righteousness, only if done with the proper motive.
How do we know the difference?
By having a relationship with the Lord, we have learned to communicate with Him. As this relationship grows, the communication becomes stronger and the still small voice (confirmed by the Word of God) becomes louder within the depths of our hearts. God wants us to be able to pray, “Oh Lord, what do you want me to do in this situation?” By spending time in His Word, certain verses will come to your mind. This is the Lord’s leading by the Holy Spirit. Part of the Holy Spirit’s role in your life is to bring to remembrance the instruction and ways of God (John 14:26).
The only way to walk in the freedom of the Lord (guilt-free) is by including Him in the conflicts of everyday life, like pulling up to the homeless at a stop light. I pray, “Give me Your will in this situation. Should I give or not?” I wait, I listen and then I act in accordance. Whatever I end up doing, I do in faith believing that the Lord has led me. It could be anything from giving money, to giving food, to parking and sharing the gospel, to praying for the person, to giving clothes, a gift card or a Bible. It is not a random thought that comes to mind and calling it faith. It is about humbling yourself in prayer and seeking His heart through Bible reading as you desire to be led by His Spirit, not your thoughts.
I went to Connecticut to celebrate Thanksgiving because that is the part of the country where Thanksgiving started and it was where I could practice loving and thanking the Lord. In the same way, I continually go to the Lord for discernment on decisions regarding giving because He is where my Christian life started – and I grow richer as I include Him in every situation of my life.
We are about to celebrate Christmas. No matter where you go to celebrate Christ’s birth, He goes with you. We just need to make sure that no matter what we are doing and no matter what decisions we are making, we are doing it according to His will and not ours. The Word of God is for our everyday instruction and Jesus is not just about December but living out the meaning of Christmas every day of the year. God’s Word is not a matter of opinion but of life.
We need to choose each day who we will serve. Do we serve the ways of man or the heart of God? It is not difficult to discern God’s ways. And God is not so demanding that we have a hard time following Him. So those of us who are rich in faith, regardless of our financial status, will please God’s heart (James 2:5). Christmas time is the best time to test our motives to see if we are in the faith and the best time of the year to act in that faith and to remember:
“Freely you received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8
Prayer: Oh Lord, I want to live to please You. See if there be any thing in me that is not pleasing You. Help me to be willing to be led in Your eternal ways. I do not want to walk with You out of guilt or obligation, but in the freedom of the Spirit’s leading, bringing You glory and honor all the days of my life. In Jesus name, Amen.
This article is used by permission of Daily Disciples
Daily Disciples Ministries, Inc., founded by Tonilee Adamson and Bobbye Brooks, embraces a vision to reach the world for Christ by teaching others how to be His daily disciples. Their mission is to evangelize the lost and to re-awaken the saved to live lives empowered by the Word of God and His Holy Spirit, and to teach and to train those who desire to grow, to serve and to have all that God has for them…encouraging everyone to be a daily disciple of Jesus Christ. From Bible studies to daily devotionals to daily radio programs to a comprehensive discipleship program, Bobbye & Tonilee have a passion to help others apply the Word of God to their lives every day.