“… Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8b
I would like to begin this chapter by sharing with you some words that have found a permanent place in my heart. They are words that have challenged and encouraged me to give freely, freely as the Lord gave to me. They are the words of Elizabeth George from her book Beautiful in God’s Eyes 1. She states, “Your goal is to build your house, build an honorable name for your family, and build up the next generation. Never mind what you are going to get in return. Don’t worry about what the building efforts will cost you personally. Forget about whether or not others will be grateful for your selfless service or whether they will even notice it. As God’s beautiful woman, you don’t do what you do to get anything. You do what you do because of who you are, because of the person God is making you into – a virtuous woman, a woman who is beautiful in His eyes! Selfless beauty is the greatest beauty of all. It’s the beauty of our Lord.” (Emphasis added)
Wow! It took me several days to work through this simple paragraph. I was challenged to raise both my level of giving and my attitude toward those gifts to a whole new level. In light of those words of Elizabeth George I began to really meditate upon the cross of Christ. I saw how freely Christ gave to me. I heard a speaker say once that our salvation is not a free gift for it cost Jesus His life. Yet, He gave that gift of life when He knew that few would ever realize His selfless act of love let alone thank Him for it. He gave the ultimate sacrifice for a world full of people that throughout all generations have denied Him His deity, glory and recognition. They have mocked Him, debased Him, and replaced Him with His own creation. Nevertheless, He gave. He gave from a heart so full of compassion and love that He had no other choice but than to give.
The sacrifice of Christ is something that I feel I take for granted all too often. It is something that will always leave me in awe and wonder. It is something that will forever fill me with gratitude and conviction. For you see, Christ’s giving was not just a single act of a death upon the cross. His entire nature is to give. It began in the Beginning when He was the giver of life. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.” John 1:1,3,4
He gave through His willingness to leave the glorious habitat of heaven and the continual presence of His Father to dwell in a dirty, sinful world so that we might have a savior. He came not in the glory and splendor, which He deserved, but as a baby, wrapped in old cloths and laid in a feeding trough of farm animals to sleep. “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” John 1:14a Do no let this pass by you lightly. Take a moment to really reflect on the magnitude of the birth of Jesus Christ – Emmanuel, God with us. I am not talking about Christmas carols and church plays, but rather one of the most incredible demonstrations of selfless giving that ever took place. Take a moment and dwell on it.
Jesus continued to give each day of His earthly life. He gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, life to the dead, forgiveness to the lost, compassion to the forsaken and on and on and on. “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:35,36
And of course there was the desertion of His disciples in the garden, the humiliation of His arrest, the mockery and pain preceding His death, His crucifixion, and having His Father turn His eyes from Him as He bore the guilt of all people upon His shoulders, so that we may know life and forgiveness and redemption that could only come through His sacrificial giving. “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Galatians 1:3-5
One would think that with the redemption of the world made possible by His gift of life, Jesus would be through giving. He ascended to the right hand of the Father and simply waits for the day He will return. However, that is not the case. Even after His death and resurrection, our Lord, continues to give each day. He acts as our continual High Priest, interceding before the Father on our behalf. “Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25
And all of this is the giving that we are exhorted to replicate in our daily lives. It can be a bit overwhelming and heavy. I do not believe that is has to be. Through those challenging words of Elizabeth George, I have begun to realize that my giving is not a list of things that I must accomplish each day. There is no set number of good deeds that I have to perform to be a giver such as Jesus was. The heart of a giver simply overflows with gratitude for the gifts that he has received and longs to bestow that same love to others. If I walk daily in remembrance of all that Jesus has done and continues to do for me, then I am moved and empowered to give freely for I know that freely I have received.
My attitude and actions of giving are no longer about what I do, who I do it for, or what kind of recognition I receive for those gifts, but rather about who I am – a sinner saved by grace through the precious gifts of Jesus. This was an amazing transformation of my thinking. Suddenly I was free from fatigue, bitterness, resentment, and all those other feelings that accompany a need for recognition. I was now free to give as the Lord gave to me because the Lord had freely given to me.
One of the neatest aspects of giving as the Lord gives is that we always receive more than we can give. If you have ever been on a mission trip, helped feed the homeless, or been there for a friend in need, then you know what I am talking about. When your heart is pure and longs merely to give to others, you are always blessed beyond what you have expended. It is a testimony repeated around the globe from members of the body of Christ that have experienced the mission field. Everyone I know who has experienced the joy of mission work exclaims, “I thought that I was going to give so much to these people, but in reality I received so much more from them and the Lord then I could have ever given.” This is a beautiful Biblical concept. Luke 6:38 states, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Does this nullify words of affirmation and appreciation? Not by any means. Every person enjoys having their service recognized and appreciated, however, the receiving of those affirmations cannot be the motivation behind the giving. Jesus longs for the world to recognize and to receive His gift of salvation with thanksgiving and praise, yet “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8b He gave the gift of redemption knowing that most of the people for whom He suffered, would never even acknowledge His existence.
The Real World …
Here we are again, at the point of taking some lofty notions and applying them to the real world in which we live. What are some ways that we can demonstrate the selfless service that encompasses the beauty of our Lord?
Live a life of gratitude. “Freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8b I do not think that we can ever be too grateful. Remember all that Jesus has done and will continue to do for you and allow that gratitude to splash into the lives of others in the form of selfless giving.
Do not wait for people to notice. This is especially true for our husbands and our children. There are so many little things that we can give and do throughout the day that will rarely be noticed. We need to stop waiting for our families to notice our service, and instead just do them for the joy of serving.
Give without expecting in return. Be able to give without waiting for those gifts to be reciprocated. If every time you give, no matter how simple or elaborate the gift, you are waiting for a gift in return, your life will be characterized by disappointment, anger and bitterness. Give for the joy of giving, not the joy of receiving. At Christmas, do you love to watch the expressions on your children’s faces as they open each gift with delight? Do you revel in their joy and excitement or do you wait to open the gift they gave to you to ensure that they expended the same amount of energy and money that you did on them? Of course not. You revel in the joy of your children, excited and anxious as they tug on each bow and rush to hug your neck. Live each day to light up the faces of those around you and revel in their joy.
Look for creative ways to give. Write notes and stick them in your child’s lunch sack each day, or place cards in your husband’s sock drawer. Look for and anticipate opportunities to give. Do not wait for the obvious, “big” ways in which you are expected to give of yourself.
Get a new perspective on the mundane. Realize that when you do the laundry, wash the dishes, prepare a meal or vacuum you are not merely performing tasks that have to be done, but you are giving of yourself for the well being of your family. When you take care of your family through daily household responsibilities you are giving of yourself just as the Lord gave of Himself.
Make giving a lifestyle. Get to a point where giving is simply another attribute of your character, not an occasional action performed. Transform your heart, renew your mind and adjust your attitude so that you can give freely in every moment of your life.
Remember, “Freely you have received, freely give.” The more freely you give, the more abundantly you will be blessed.