Growing By Giving

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Non-Christian faiths should not be viewed as unenlightened. Very often they have deep spiritual insights to parallel or enhance the teachings of Christianity. We can learn much from other faiths. Because they lack the apex of revelation in Jesus Christ does not necessarily mean these non-Christian faiths donít offer a great deal.
Just because these faiths may not seem to us to offer everything (and what mortal or group of mortals does?) does not mean they donít have anything to offer. For one thing, they often have wisdom Christians should try to profit from.
Then as we learn to appreciate their insights, Christians should learn to respect their beliefs even though Christians may disagree with them on some things. After all, it is not agreement that must hold the world together but love.
I have often appreciated the wisdom of the prophet, Mohammed, who taught that giving alms is only secondarily for the good of the cause the alms are given for. First of all giving is for the spiritual welfare of the one who gives. This of course is implied but not as well pointed out in Christian teachings as in Moslem. I believe Moslems point this out best.
Acknowledging giving helps the giver first helps take the sting out of giving to others. Proud and independent people simply do not like to be given to. Giving can seem very patronizing if not done sensitively. Very of ten the poor or needy, the ones who need the gifts most, are the most sensitive about taking. It hurts their pride to have to receive.
Having to be on the receiving end of giving can put others in a very patronizing position. If the one giving can make the point of how there is profit in giving, so that the receiver seems to be doing the favor by accepting, the onus can be shifted.
I have no doubt it is more blessed to give than to receive, but giving is also an affirmation of social superiority that can be very intimidating. It suggests the one giving may be superior to the one taking. This breeds resentment all around. The acknowledgement that you are giving to grow spiritually is a very good way of saying, please help me grow by taking the gift I need to give. We desperately need to do this to soften Christianity that can be rather of a blow in giving.
There is a true story of a family who gave their mite to the fund for the poorest family in the church at Christmas, only later to find they were considered the poorest family. It hurt them deeply to find they were considered that way.
I suggest at the end of the day it will prove as important to know how to be gracious upon receiving as it is to practice giving. Blessed are those who know how to receive graciously.
Everyone needs to learn to give. It is a universal rhythm inside of us that must be awakened in every human being. There is a stream of grace, a spiritual need to give, in all of us. The need to give to others is in our soul. Not giving means inside of us a part of our humanity that we need withers and dies from lack of use.
One not giving is not living. The non-giver exists miserably in a sad isolation and selfishness. It is through giving of our selves to others that there is a deep joy. Through giving we are raised to a spiritual high. We touch a universal chord that needs to vibrate in everyone at times. Through giving we merge (not submerge) ourselves in others. Our gifts are an outward symbol of an inward grace.
You may exist without giving but you are not living. Giving is at the very heart of living. Many parents first realize this when they have a child. Others realize it in many different ways. It is a high spiritual lesson. Giving is a universal rhythm of life best symbolized by Christ who have His life for us. Out of our giving, though it may involve suffering, comes the transfiguration of our lives beyond self.
The prophet, Mohammed, informs us we should give first for the welfare of self: To keep spiritually alive and to exercise the bonds of human feeling.
I hear people saying that you should not give to the unworthy. You should say first that you are giving out of your own spiritual need to give. Second, you should ask who is to judge the unworthy? Let the one without sin cast the first stone. Third, whomever you give to, to you his name is Jesus.
If the poor wretch who is given to then goes out to buy whiskey, what of it? Because he or she does wrong, should you then have done wrong by not giving? No, you did right. By giving you helped yourself spiritually. You became a better person. You gave someone a Christian service.
If the receiver of your gift did not instantly become a better person, did you expect it? Are you that naÔve? What do you know of the otherís heart? Who are you to judge? Who are you to complain? What do you know? I know that we should do our part and then leave the rest to God. That is what I say to do. You properly have given so as to please God. He will work out His glory.
The pitiful, selfish, frivolous, self-absorbed ďnowĒ people of today, the spiritual dead of the present, the poor souls advocating agnosticism and materialism, need to give to others to attempt raising in themselves the spiritual rhythms of life that lie dormant and unexercised in them.
Giving is a way to rouse spiritual vibrations. It is a way to wake up to unity with the vibrant life of the Giving Spirit that is at the center of the universe. Giving to others is a small affirmation of the cross where Christ gives His life for others. It is one of the basic spiritual rhythms of universal life. Be apart from it at your own risk.
Through giving to others who are representatives of God, one begins to live with and work for God. One shares in a small way the redemptive work of God. As you begin to help others, you may begin to sense in yourself the divine surge of life transfiguring energy that is grace. As the Gospels say, where your treasure goes, your heart will also. But your treasure is not just money. You must give of yourself to God: time, patience, and involvement.
We are all stations on Godís rivers of grace. What God has sent to bless us is meant to go through us to others and through others on to still others until everyone is touched. If we try to dam the rivers of grace to make a lake of selfishness, we are most foolish, because in the end under pressures the holding walls will crack, break and speak. We can all drown in our own selfishness if we try to hold back what is due others down the line.
Nor do the blessings God has given us fully belong to us. They are like crops grown in the sun. The sun belongs to God who expects us to use the rays of energy from it to grow things, make good from them, and to allow the rays of energy also to be used by others.
No person can claim the sun as their possession alone nor what an individual has grown ever solely to be his work. Whatever we have done in life, we have worked under the sky and canopy of God and with the help of others. Therefore God is not happy when we attempt to live selfishly or exclusively as if we own nobody anything. Or we did everything by ourselves.
God expects us to have the common sense as well as the common decency to share our creations with others as He shares His creation with us. The view is not at all unreasonable. It is fair of God to expect us to share. So try to be a giving person who reflects back the grace of God that is shining on your naturally as the moon reflects back the sunlight that shines on it. This is natural, serene and good.
A wise believer does not frustrate the grace of God but lets the blessings from God to him, the light of grace in which he stands, be turned back on others. Thus the good man gives naturally from in himself and this shows to all the state of grace that he is in.
Now the best way to explain a state of grace is to use the sun and moon as examples. We as sinful humans are illuminated by the grace and love of God as the dark side of the moon is illuminated to shine by the light of the sun. The moon does not create its light but gets it light reflected from the sun. So we get our light from God.
The moon shines in the darkness and is admired for the reflected light of the sun shining upon it. The sun has sent its light. So the moon shines by courtesy of the sun. That is much the way we confused mortals shine by the light of a grace that is not ours. God uses us to display the light of His grace.
When we mortals shine, it can be beautiful, but we did not create the light we shine with. It grace sent upon us. The grace comes from God.
When we admire the moon, we say that it is beautiful, but we should give the sun the real credit for the light that came from it. In this way we may admire the goodness in others but we should give God the credit because the light came out from Him to us just as the light on the moon came out ofthe sun originally. By ourselves, we are little or nothing, but with Godís light, Godís grace, we are illuminated. We are then something to see.
Our greatest desire should be that we may reflect His light and His grace. When we give to others, we do. We are in a state of grace similar to a state of natural beauty.
To others we should say when we give, this gift is for you. The gift may come through me, only it is from God who is greater than I. If you do not like the gift, say it came from me. If you like the gift, say it through one greater than me. To God is the glory. Through His grace we are transfigured on some things as the dark side of the moon is transformed by the light of the sun. It then appears to us.
Often on nights whenever I am troubled, I may go outside to look at the sky. I do not expect to see the sun, yet I know through the reflections of the moon, that the light of the sun will not be directly viewed but can be indirectly seen in the light on the moon.
So in our fevered times of stress and great confusion, we may look for God but cannot see Him plainly. Yet we may see through a thousand reflections of His grace shining around us that God is out there. Godís reflections may be seen in the children, in others we love, in the sacrifices made for us, in His creation, in holiness, through good actions well performed and sometimes in mystic moments and benevolent impressions.
If in moments that we may need Him, but do not see Him plainly, we may see enough of His reflected grace shining over and around us to rest assured that He is out there, and if not now, one day, He will be clearly seen.


Dr. James MacLeod may be contacted through the Neill Macaulay Foundation.