Herald Journal Columns
Oct. 28, 2002
Pastor's Column

It is easier to give when we realize we have enough

By Rev. Sherri L. Sandoz
Bethel Lutheran Church, Lester Prairie

Do you remember, as a child, when one playmate would wrestle another to the ground and say, "Do you give up? Do you give?"

If the child felt powerless, he or she would say, "I give! I give!" And the victor would let go.

For some of us, giving feels like that ­ like a loss. Grudgingly, we surrender. It's sad, because giving is a very fulfilling and exciting process.

We may give our time to someone or our possessions or resources to others. We may give affirmation or encouragement. We always gain when we give. So why does giving sometimes feel like a loss?

Giving may feel like a loss if we believe we have little or nothing to give. We may have the idea that life is full of limitations. There are only so many minutes in a day or a lifetime and to use some of those minutes listening to a person in need may feel like we've given up one of our possessions.

If we perceive ourselves as people who don't have enough, we may be reluctant to relinquish our time, money or things to others because we will have less.

But, that is not the way God thinks of life, nor is it the way God established things. No one possesses one's time. It's a gift and there is no predicting how many minutes or hours we will have. It is worth pondering. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror each morning we might be moved to say, "My goodness, I'm still here! I'm still alive! Thank you, Lord."

God gives us all those minutes and hours, just as God gives us the world and everything in it. It does not belong to us. It is ours for a while because God chooses to give to us without reservation.

God gives enough, in fact, more than enough, to live life abundantly. For Christians "enough" means health, decent food and water, a roof over our heads, education, meaningful work, and love.

We get into trouble and get frightened when our definition of "enough" gets too complicated. When our feelings of security depend on an extensive list of possessions, sharing may feel more like loss.

God reminds us again and again in the Bible that our lives do not depend on our possessions. Anyone who has experienced a tragedy by fire or unemployment or storm knows this reality.

What matters are loving relationships and having the most basic of needs met ­ not a long list of possessions. Once we've determined what is really "enough" giving gets easier.

Still, even if we feel secure about our possessions, we might find ourselves fearing loss because we like to feel powerful. We like to control our things and our money and our calendars. It feels risky to let someone else take over these things.

What if the money isn't spent the way we intend? What if we give something away only to wish we hadn't? What if we love someone who doesn't return our love? Losing control over love and money and things is to lose power. Do we resist giving because we hate losing power? Do we hate losing?

When we no longer fear losing a part of ourselves, we can give with confidence. There is a swelling joy that comes with confidence in ourselves. It is the confidence of knowing we are being what God intended us to be. We are living up to our human potential.

When we build our lives around giving to others rather than on possessing things, the use of our time and energy become gifts of love. How good it feels to see someone make progress because of our consideration and our gift.

How satisfying to know that people have enough to eat or that they've heard God's word of love because of our generosity. There is a profound joy that comes from empowering someone else to find employment or a place to live.

The real surprise comes in knowing that we benefit as much or more than those we help.

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