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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Unselfish Giving

I remember several years ago teaching a ladies class on the subject of giving.  We discussed different ways of giving, all kinds of people we can give to, and the actual gifts we can give.  One of the points I made that night was that true, unselfish giving is giving up something we could use or we wanted or needed.  It's easy to give to others something we don't want (old clothes that don't fit or we might be tired of....or they are out of "style").  But how easy is it to give something we need ourselves?  For example, what if you only have $10.00 in your wallet or billfold and your bank account was so low you couldn't write any checks.  Then someone comes up to you asking for a $10.00 donation to help with a family who lost everything in a flood.  What would you do?  Tell them no?  Tell them that you would help later but not now?  Would you give them the $10.00 knowing that was all you had to live on?

Sometimes, even if we are "giving" people, we can still be selfish.  I say this because I felt this way about myself recently.  I'll give to things as needed.  I'll donate my time, food, clothing, and money towards projects and to help those in need.  But, there is one thing I've recenly realized that I am selfish about (and it's a silly-sounding thing, really!).  I'm selfish about our home-grown pumpkins!  Isn't that ridiculous??!  I don't want to share them and don't....or hadn't until recently.  I'm selfish with the pumpkins because #1:  I like to decorate with them all over our big yard; #2:  Our kids help grow them and I'm sentimental towards anything that involves them (even pumpkins); #3:  On Thanksgiving afternoon we have a "Pumpkin Bash" and play pumpkin baseball with my husband's side of the family (and it's a big family...lots of pumpkins are needed) - as described in this post.  So, I felt like I had legitimate reasons for my selfishness at the time.  In fact it had never occurred to me that I was being selfish with them.

Our elementary school classes were having a pumpkin decorating contest a few weeks ago (sponsored by the PTO of which I'm the president).  I sent the letters to the teachers about the pumpkin contest, but never really thought about where the actual pumpkins would come from.  A week before the contest I got a text from a teacher's assistant asking me where the pumpkins were supposed to come from.  I hadn't given it a thought....just assumed the teachers would get them themselves.  However, once I thought about the fact that the teachers were working on other projects and purchasing items for their game and themed baskets for our annual Fall Festival, I realized that the PTO should get the pumpkins for them.  I thanked the assistant for asking me and also for telling me that the teachers thought I was getting them.

Well, I looked for pumpkins in the stores in nearby towns, but couldn't find any.  My husband was out of town and I even had him look.  No pumpkins.  Then my husband asked, "How many pumpkins do you need?"  I said, "Seven".  He said, "Well, we can give them seven of ours."  "Our pumpkins?", I thought to myself.  I told him that I had thought about it, but just didn't want to give them up.  But then it hit me:  I WAS BEING SELFISH WITH OUR PUMPKINS!  I really felt bad after that - thinking that I was allowing a PUMPKIN to become a stumbling block and I felt like my selfishness was sinful (I'm sure it was, actually).  So, I changed my attitude and decided that we should give the pumpkins to the school. 

That afternoon I mentioned to our son, Zachary, who actually did all of the planting of the pumpkins this year, that we were giving some to the school and he said, "Mom, we don't have very many left for Thanksgiving.  Why are you giving them away?"  Ouch!  That was one of those "I learned this attitutude from you" times that makes a parent feel really, really bad (and guilty, too). 

I explained to Zachary about my selfishness and told him that I had felt that same way.  He was fine after that and seemed to understand.  The next day I delivered the pumpkins to the school.  One or two people know where they came from, but none of the teachers do (to my knowledge).  And, I'm not telling you now to brag at all.  I'm telling you now to show you how we can be "givers" in one sense, but be "selfish" in another sense.  Our attitude of giving should be unselfish - always....not just when it's easy to do so.

A perfect example of this is in the Bible.  Look at this passage from Mark 12:41-44:

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on."

Although the widow gave a small amount and the rich people put in a large amount, the widow's gift was more impressive to Jesus.  Why?  Because she gave all she had.

I've never paid attention to this part of the passage before until now, but look how it says "Many rich people THREW in large amounts".  I know it was customary to have a large pot or vessel-type thing to collect the money, but compare that to what it says about the widow, she "came and put in two very small copper coins".  Isn't it interesting the "threw" and "put in" comparasion?  It makes me wonder if the rich people just threw it in out of duty but with a selfish attitude more or less saying, "Okay, here's my weekly contribution.  I've done my part for the week."  It sure seems like it was begrudgingly done.  Or maybe they threw it in there to be more noisey and to draw attention to the large sum they were giving?  Yet the widow "put in" her contribution of all she had...quietly it seems, not wanting to draw any attention to herself.  She gave unselfishly.

Let's all think of that type of giving - not just during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season - but all of the time.  God has given us everything we have.  It's His and He's just letting us borrow it for a little while.  Remembering that will help us give more unselfishly ourselves.  True giving will be as the widow's gift only when we give up something we would have needed or used.

1 comment:

Helene said...

I love the saying "you can't outgive God."

I love the pumpkin story.

A blessed Thanksgiving to all of you :-)

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