Have you ever done something to help another person with no expectation of a reward for your efforts? I have to admit that there is a part of me that does crave (at the least) recognition for altruistic acts. Even when I do something extra around the house, I often find a way to make sure that my wife notices. When I discern this need for recognition, I have to question myself about my motivations.
“You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.”
― Amy Carmichael
When I was a boy growing up in eastern Oregon, my father worked for the State as a juvenile parole officer. This brought him into contact with some families that had very meager resources. I remember one impoverished family in particular that my Dad took under his wing: They had a boy about my age and I was asked to give of some of my clothing so that this boy would have something that wasn’t threadbare. I don’t remember if I gave willingly or grudgingly but I do remember the look of amazement on this boy’s face as I handed him my used clothing. To him, those old shirts and pants were a treasure. I didn’t really understand it at the time but now I am grateful that my father had the compassion to help provide for this family in need and at the same time set a benevolent example for our family.
Bring you all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, said the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.
It seems clear that our impulse for charitable giving occurs because of the love of God. As His love fills our hearts, charity becomes second nature. When we choose to serve others for the love of God, we are neither motivated by the hope of recognition and reward nor by fear of punishment. Many of us have experienced that generosity is an expansive energy; the more we give, the more we receive. Unconditional giving somehow divinely generates resources that are reflected back to us in surprising, seemingly unconnected ways.
Mother Teresa admonished us to “Give, but give until it hurts.” It is not difficult to scoop a little off the top of our abundance for others but when we are asked to reach past our comfort zone of giving, we can best follow through when we understand that we don’t really possess anything but we are simply stewards of what God has created for us… only then can we truly trust that the bounty in our care can be distributed divinely through our obedience. Give until it hurts means that we trust in the wisdom of the creator (God’s economy) more than we trust in our own wisdom (the world’s economy). Jesus provides the ultimate example of selfless giving when he gave his life so that we may experience life abundantly.
Most of us appreciate being recognized for the good we do, but isn’t it delightful to be the anonymous donor of goodness? It is indeed better to give than to receive.