Quiet Giving

By Marjorie F. Eddington

Categories: Expressing God, Relationships, Sermon on the Mount

When I was a young girl, a beggar walked up to my dad after church asking for money for food. My dad wanted to help the man and did not want to enable an addiction. He offered to buy this man a meal. Not all beggars who approached my dad accepted this offer. This one did. My dad walked him across the street to a restaurant and bought him lunch while my brother and I waited with our mom, which was hard for little hungry tummies to do. So of course we wanted to know the details. But when our dad got back to the car, he downplayed what he had just done.

Then there were times, again when I was little, when my mom bought bags of groceries for other people and left them at their front door—without knocking, without saying she had left them. Or she gave them to another individual to deliver anonymously to the family in need. We never saw their faces when they received their gift, but we trusted they were blessed.

Still today, those acts of generosity stay with me. My parents’ gifts were from the heart meeting an immediate need. Their example has been a constant reminder about the importance of giving quietly, practically, and unselfishly.

Jesus’ words from so long ago ring now in my ears:

When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. (Matt 6:2-3 NLT)

Giving has simply been a part of faith for millenniums. We shouldn’t give just to be noticed, assuming that the recognition and applause will give us status or increase our self-esteem. Nor do we give simply because of the tax advantage. The reward from those is just what it is—praise or a tax advantage; that’s it.

We give because we love. We have an abundance of love that spreads in our hearts, overflows in our lives, and touches the people of the world who desperately need our love. And because we share that love, we are all rewarded, all blessed.

So how can we give something of substance, of real value, that can’t be used inappropriately to those in need—to the homeless, the poverty-stricken, the starving, the sickly, the weak, the hopeless? They are sometimes in our faces, sometimes hiding behind the shadows, but always seem to be present in our world, both near and far.

I am reminded of two men long ago who gave what they had to a beggar. He was sitting by the Temple gate called Beautiful, and he was a paralytic. When the beggar asked for money, “Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, ‘Look at us!’ The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, ‘I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!’” So he did. And he was incredibly joyful, “walking, leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:4-7 NLT).

What a gift! Peter and John gave what they had—the healing spirit of the Christ. They looked him in the eyes; they didn’t avoid his glance. They weren’t concerned by how long the man had been in this condition. Rather, they were moved with compassion, with the desire to alleviate this man’s suffering. So they shared with him a beautiful view of his God-created self. And this transformed his life.

We, too, can see others with a Christly look that helps lift them up and out of a pit of depression, loneliness, hopelessness. We can give gratitude, appreciation, thoughtfulness. We can withhold complaint, criticism, self-absorption. We can give empathy, joy, respect. We can withhold judgment, jealousy, contempt. These gifts last; they transform lives at the very core because they help change people’s perspectives, give hope, and offer possibilities. And we don’t need to save these gifts just for the most desperate people. We can give them to those we love most, too.

We may also be moved by the spirit of generosity and compassion to do or say certain things that can help another out of their suffering—whether it’s to buy a meal or a bag of groceries; to spend a day doing someone’s yard work or taking their children to their activities; to build temporary or more permanent housing at home or abroad; to serve in homeless shelters or go to centers to help disaster victims. Whatever it is, we do it in the spirit of giving.

The spirit of generosity, regardless of our income, is present in our hearts. There is a way to help alleviate the suffering of the world. And we can do it with God’s love.