When I was in college I felt convicted to give more of my money away, but I didn't. I convinced myself that I was too poor to be generous so I ignored the conviction and kept going on with my life. I didn't have a lot of money but that doesn't matter to God when it comes to giving (Read Mark 12:41-44). The conviction kept coming and I kept ignoring it. It's funny how true conviction from God doesn't go away when you ignore it. It just seems to get louder and louder. After ignoring it just a little longer I decided I would try giving. The next time I was in church and the offering plate came around I put a few bucks in and thought to myself...
So, I really started to think about what I could give and why it was so hard for me to give. I could come up with a million excuses on why I didn't give but when I was finally really honest with myself it was for one reason. I was selfish. I felt like I deserved my money and things and no one else did.
All of this conviction and ignoring was happening while I was in my 3rd year at Temple University. I was involved in a campus ministry that fed the homeless and I had a Bible study at my apartment, but I didn't give my money to anything. I was convinced that I could do a lot of other stuff and that would offset the extra money in my pocket. As I tried to convince myself, I felt God calling me out more and more to give away my money. While all this was happening I was working two different jobs and had finally saved up enough money to buy a nice bag to carry my laptop and stuff as I rode my bike around the city. Keep in mind I thought I was a "cool hipster bike messenger" and a "cool bag" is really what makes you a "cool hipster bike messenger". When I finally had enough to buy my bag I was so excited and thought it really added to my wanna-be bike messenger credibility, even though I wasn't a bike messenger and didn't deliver anything on my bike except myself to classes and work.
I remember that I got the bag on a Friday which was the night that we fed the homeless. I took my bag to the park where were having our gathering for the sole reason of showing it off. I was bragging about something I had just purchased while men stood in front of me with no roof over their head. The hypocrisy is blinding now, but at the time I was young, dumb and oblivious. I got to the park and took my spot in the line handing out cups of hot chocolate. It was just after winter break so it was a cold night. As I was standing, smiling and handing out hot chocolate a heavily bearded, dirty old man looked up at me.
Then he moved along and I kept handing out hot chocolate. Now I don't make a lot of claims to actually hearing the voice of God. I believe it's happened twice in my entire life, but as I handed out about five more cups after the comment I heard God say, "Give it to him." I shook off the thought and kept handing out cups. The line ended and the whole time I was handing out cups of cocoa my eyes were fixed on the man that made the comment.
Thoughts raced through my brain as I stared:
"I wouldn't want to offend him by thinking he wants the bag."
"What would he need a laptop bag for?"
"I could just get him a cheaper bag."
"He might leave before I can talk to him."
"BUT THIS IS MY BAG!"
Giving is hard. No matter how much money or stuff you have. Giving is hard. And things that are hard take practice. So with a lot of help from the spirit of God I walked over to the man, took my few belongings out of my bag and handed it to him saying, "I thought you might like this." As he looked toward me and saw the bag his face lit up and he said thank you about a million times. I said you're welcome and walked over to talk to some of my friends who were unaware of what had just happened. As they talked about what we were going to do that night, I looked straight through them to a total stranger opening and closing every pouch and examining every seam of his brand new bag.
I ended up having to walk my bike back to my apartment because I had to carry the few things I had in the bag. As I walked I felt the conviction to give being lifted off my shoulders and it was replaced by a true desire to give even more. Things that are hard are often really addictive to. Runners will talk about a runners high, but I hate running. I did have my first giving high that night though, and I was hooked.
Since then I have always had an amount of my money in mind that I try to give to our church, missionaries, children in need and anything else I feel God calling me to give. Every year I tell Brooke that I want to give away more money this year than we did last year. I never want to be satisfied with our giving and always want to push my comfort level. It's taken time, practice and faith to give, but it's totally worth it.
As you start 2014 I am sure you have lots of goals and visions for what the year will look like. I challenge you to add giving more of your money to that list. If you don't give away anything at all right now, this task will be easy because anything is more than nothing. If you give away a lot then just give away a little more this year. Giving is hard but it is always worth it!
HERE IS HOW I STARTED GIVING:
- After I would get paid I would deposit my check into the bank and take 1% out in cash.
- I would take that cash home with me and put it in an envelope that I wrote "giving" on.
- The next time I was going to church I would take that envelope and empty it in the tray.
- I slowly started to raise that % amount!
Your brain will make a million excuses on why you should keep your money, but don't listen to it. Trust that God will provide for you.
Lastly, I'd like to share some encouraging verses about giving. Save them to your phone, Pin them or print them out. Whatever you need to encourage yourself to give.