Giving: Before and After

Giving is part of living. Everyday, we give knowingly and unknowingly.  We give our resources in material things, time, and service. We give our attention and share our ideas. When giving is voluntary, how much to give? When it is optional,  why give?

Two principles guide my giving.

飲水思源: Literal translation –飲=Drink 水=water 思=think 源=source. When you drink water, remember where it came from. This means that we need to look back to where we were before in each stage of our life. It is a reminder for us not to forget our past and be grateful for what we have and have become. This Chinese mantra is about indebtedness. It is about remembering.

2016 is a challenging year for me. As I remember and reflect on the love I receive during the dark times, I am overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude. Of the people God sent to help lighten my load and brighten the way, I am especially touched by our family helpers.

My parents had a driver (my sister’s family driver). This driver served my parents for the past 16 years. He not only drove for them, he was their repairman, purchaser, maintenance guy and secretary. He was their hands and feet. He was their eyes and ears. He told me he loved my parents like his own. I believe him because his words are authenticated by his dedication in time and service; his loyalty and faithful commitment in making parents’ lives more comfortable and better. Each time I remember all the things he did for papa and mama, I know that no material things will be able to buy the love and care that he gave.

When I fell and could not walk, my drivers helped to carry me in the wheelchair down and up two flights of stairs each time I need to consult the doctor. Even my helpers shared a hand. I remember each meal prepared, each clothing washed and ironed, every plate, spoon/fork and cup washed, every room of the house cleaned. I recall each bath and each ride in the wheelchair. I think further of the hands and feet that did all those things. And I reflect with thankfulness the hearts and minds that move these hands and feet. Sufferings are lenses through which we see life and living in a different perspective. These lenses magnify and enhance the trivial and unseen things, things I took for granted. Remembering to put on these lenses helps me to open my hands.

What can I give in return? Material things are not difficult to give especially when God has blessed me with so much. So I need to remind myself: “Give beyond your limits.” Give more than what you would have normally given. Give by God’s grace and mercy. God gave me His Son. Freely I receive. Freely I give. What did my Heavenly Father withhold from me? Nothing. This brings me to the next point.

What is left after the giving…

The poor widow gave two very small copper coins worth only a few cents. “Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:43-44) Jesus commended her because she gave her all. Paul commended the churches in Macedonia for their generosity: “that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord..” (2 Cor. 8:2-3).

It is not about how much one gives but how much is left after the giving. When I hesitate about giving an extra P?? to tip a porter or a waiter, I think how significant this amount is in my bank balance. And I imagine the P?? might help to put more food on their family table. Perhaps the additional tip would enable the street kid who watched my car to buy medicine for his sick mom?

Being generous is a gift from God. God is our example in generosity. No good thing does He withhold from his children. The perfect example of sacrificial giving in richness is that of Jesus who by His grace, “that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9). No matter how much I give, I will never outgive my God.

Wealth and poverty are relative. The worldly view is the bigger the better. The Godly perspective is the smaller the bigger. The world applauds giving in ‘billions’ of dollars. God commends giving in ‘two small copper coins’. The worldly economics cares about keeping more than what is given. God’s economics is about giving more than what is kept. Each time I give, what do I keep?

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