Freedom To Give!
Happy Holiday season everyone! I don’t know about your last month, but ours has been a rush of going out of town, buying presents, and spending time with friends and family.
I have a kind of love-hate relationship with this time of year. I love getting to see people I don’t get to see often, love the laughter of cousins, yummy food, and celebrating the birth of Jesus. Yet, on the flip side of all of the goodness, there is an overshadowing sense of commercialism and pressure of expectations to give the perfect present that I never can seem to live up to.
All of that being said, I have always loved to give to others. So much so that sometimes, my ever patient husband gets annoyed with me from time to time. As I was letting my my mind wander as we drove down a country road on one of our many recent road trips, it dawned on me, I have experienced a freedom I hadn’t realized before, the freedom of giving.
When I was in the UPC, and I’m sure many others who have ever been involved with fundamental religious groups can relate, I was expected to give. Not just to give, but to give exclusively to my church. Giving to any other charity was almost out of the question. Our church came first as a representative of God, and it was required if you wanted to participate in anything to give the church at least ten percent of your income plus additional offerings to be used as the church saw fit, such as building funds, pastor appreciation month, or any other ministry that needed additional funds at the moment.
Now, I am not saying that giving to your church is a bad thing. I give to my current church. However, in years past, I gave so much to my church that I did not have the financial freedom to even have the option to give to those around me.
If you are one who believes a Christian should give a strict ten percent to your church and your church only, I am not here to convince you otherwise. Although the amazing YouTube channel, Responsible Faith has a great video about tithing and Christians today, if you’re interested in researching the topic.
Here is my point: I was so wrapped up in giving to my own church, who, let’s be honest, wasn’t letting the money go too far past their own doors, that I neglected to give to those in my community who truly needed it. I was so consumed in my own little world of religious traditions I couldn’t see those directly around me who were hurting or in need.
Let that truth sink in for a moment. Conviction hits hard, at least for myself. I still give to my church, but I don’t give exclusively to my church. I do not depend on someone else to dictate where my gift goes, I get to choose and ensure the funds are used for their intended purpose. I am free from obligatory giving until it hurts and am free to bless others with a cheerful heart. I think this is how God intended his followers to be.
This holiday season, I challenge you to look around you. Don’t be blind to the pain others may be feeling as you are bustling around getting last-minute shopping finished or finding that perfect ham for Christmas dinner.
James 1:27 tells us the very core of religion is to take care of others who are in need. This can be in whatever way our abilities allow, whether with our time, our gifts, or our finances.
How does that old children’s song go?
Joy is Jesus first, Yourself last, and Others in between.
Happy holidays to you and yours!