Have you ever known someone who has a “giving” nature, but also needs to let you know they are “giving”? I mean, they’d give you the shirt off their back, or the remaining groceries from their pantry; but they would also groan or moan, sigh and fuss all the while. Know anyone like that? In vocabulary terms these folks would be called oxymoron’s – the pairing of two things that don’t appear to go together – giving & hurting while you give. They practice a form of martyrdom giving. It’s a bit confusing when you are on the receiving end of such giving. “Do they want to give this, or don’t they? I’m getting mixed messages!”
“Giving” is the fourth topic of the Red Letter Challenge – a deep dive into the words and teachings of Jesus intended to help us “put his words into practice”. Jesus had a lot to say and model about giving. He talked about it quite a lot and gave us some terrific examples, with the gift of himself being the ultimate one. Jesus’ giving was accompanied by hurt and pain. He gave until it hurt. He gave his all. He gave his life. But Jesus didn’t allow the hurt or pain of the gift to surpass the purpose or love behind the gift.
In 2 Corinthians 8, Paul commends the churches of Macedonia for their sacrificial giving to an offering he is raising for the Jerusalem church. He says that “during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity.” Talk about giving when it hurts! He goes on to say “they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry (the offering) to the saints”. This, too, is giving while it hurts – giving sacrificially – but with abundant joy! They gave out of their poverty.
I’m reminded of a couple of international short-term mission experiences where the group I was part of was graciously hosted and provided for by the generous gifts and hospitality of those who were poor. These hosts (in Haiti and Chile) gave at some cost to themselves, but with joy. They were giving in the example of the Macedonian churches Paul wrote about. They wanted to give to brothers and sisters in Christ who had traveled many miles to meet and work among them. Though our socioeconomic status differed significantly, there was a flip that happened in the giving and receiving. Those who were poor, in giving out of the abundance of what they had, proved themselves rich in the love of Jesus.
Giving, in the example of Jesus, causes transformation to happen within the hearts of both givers and receivers. Giving, maybe especially when it hurts, can bring transformation, build community and break down differences. The next time you are given a gift by someone who is “giving by nature” but finds a way to let you know about it; I challenge you to find a way to break through their wall of defensiveness (which is what I think the “letting you know about it” is). Grab their hand, or pull them a bear hug, and let them know how much the gift means to you. In doing so you will likely be giving them just the gift they need – the gift of recognition, appreciation, reciprocity and love; the gift of seeing the Christ in them as they give.