It is more blessed to give than to receive.
How many times will you hear these wise words this holiday season? This is my favorite time of year primarily because of this season’s emphasis on giving. The charitable and gift-giving yearnings among us all are stoked and encouraged more in December than at any other time of the year. This spirit is encapsulated and affirmed in what might be our favorite Christmas saying: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
The axiom could not be truer. Giving is a joy. Research suggests that generous people are happier people. Generous countries are happier countries. Benevolence brings vibrancy to our faith. Historically, openhandedness and abundant giving have been the fragrance of the Church. Part of our mandate as Christians includes a call to a countercultural understanding of our role as stewards, rather than owners, of our time and treasure. I’ll just speak for myself, but my hunch is others will resonate: My charity often robs the poor of the opportunity to give, rather than encouraging generosity.
We hold a collective agreement that giving is more blessed than receiving. Accordingly, we need to invest more energy and intentionality around promoting generosity among the people to whom we give. When the poor become more than recipients, actually becoming donors and volunteers themselves, the very soul of generosity is unleashed.
Pay it forward-ism should be our rally cry. Stories from places like Romania and Uganda compel me to give in this way:
Inspired by the generosity of donors to their country, a group of Romanians determined to replicate this generosity themselves. This month, 50 microfinance clients of ROMCOM, HOPE’s partner program in Romania, participated in funding and packaging over 12,000 Christmas shoeboxes for orphans in their community.
In Uganda, one man—Bishop Hannington—has catalyzed an entire community around this concept. Even though the town was recovering from a war, and poor in every way imaginable, he preached a surprising and seemingly impossible message of generosity. Even the very poorest in this community responded to his call to live generously. One woman, both elderly and crippled, put an exclamation point on Bishop Hannington’s message (4:57 in the video):
I heard what was taking place. And even though I am crippled, I, too, wanted to give.
What God did there through His church is nothing short of a miracle. The story will be an encouragement to you as we enter fully into the season of giving.
I read this post while cruising through to find out more about HOPE International when your post made me pause–I think you make such a valuable point. Idealism as a basis of identity and meaning-making is widespread amongst my generation, but we tend to have a skewed attitude that leans toward ‘if we fix everyone’s problems, everyone will be happy and the world will be right.’ And we pat ourselves on the back for being heroes and world-changers. But, in our condescension, I think we are often in danger of missing the point. Service IS meaningful when it is an act of love. But, like you illustrate, if we are simply fixers, givers, and teachers, without allowing those we serve to fix, give-back, and teach us lessons, we rob them of their opportunity to find meaning in serving, innovating, and giving back.
At the youth center I work at we have learned to periodically do community service projects with our young people. I think they often learn more about the true shalom of Jesus through serving than through anything else we do–because they own it.