Tag Archives: poverty

Honest Thoughts on Asking, Giving, and Dear Santa Letters

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When I was a teenager, summer camps, mission trips, and medical outreaches were popular. My close friends from my youth group and I went faithfully to whatever church-sponsored activities we were allowed to join in.

My parents were pretty great at paying for the activities that involved a fee. But there was this one summer my friends and I teamed up together to raise money so we could all go to a summer camp in Bataan. Together, we made a list of people at church who would most likely be able or willing to give, and we split the list up among ourselves.

 One of the people I was supposed to talk to was a lady whose kids were in my Sunday School class. She belonged to one of the richer families in our church, hard workers and all that.

I was a bit apprehensive when I went to visit her office. I don’t think anyone relishes asking other people for money. At least, no one that I know personally relishes the task.

I remember knocking on her door. I remember how she welcomed me with a smile. I remember how she listened politely as I explained the reason for my visit. And I don’t think I will ever forget what she did next.

 

After my spiel, the lady reached into her wallet and told me she’d give me all the money in it. Then she opened it, took out all the cash, and then turned it inside out and gathered all the coins that fell out. She put those—bills and coins—in an envelope and then handed it to me. You should know that during those days bank or credit cards weren’t as popular and so I received quite the amount.

That lady, and what she did, is one picture of generosity I carry with me always. When faced with an opportunity to give, I think about her and how much her generosity touched me. It’s also the picture I look at when I feel conflicted about giving to certain people or causes. Let me explain.

Some people seem to wear poverty as a badge of honor. These people behave like their need is some proof of their holiness. [It’s like the prosperity gospel in reverse, and it’s just as baseless.] I have to admit there have been times when I have been tempted to suggest that these people try working for a change. There is real poverty, and then there is need brought about by laziness. It’s easy to tell the difference.

There are also those who walk around with a sense of entitlement, convinced they are indispensable to the good work the church is called to do. According to them, because they are set apart for such a high calling, it is the job of those who work in the “secular world” to provide for their basic needs. When faced with people like these, I think about the Apostle Paul, and the example he set. I think about how much he accomplished, and how he avoided being a burden to others by working to provide for his needs [2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13].

And then there are those who use social media like a “Dear Santa” letter, but addressed to God. Their whole premise is a twist from certain Bible verses, and they basically claim no good thing will be withheld from them because they are God’s children.

So they post about their wants, along with a prayer God would grant them those wishes. Some are more specific, adding a picture to make sure God knows exactly what they want. [Like that car at the mall, which they already prayed over and claimed in Jesus name.] And still others reference past good deeds, trying to proving they deserve that new iPhone. [Exactly the way my boys try to bargain with me for another hour of video games.] 

Let me be clear, I have nothing against asking. Nothing against giving. The truth is, I have many friends who get their hands dirty working in the field. And they can’t do the job alone.

These friends, when they have to, always ask graciously. They hold themselves accountable. They stay away from guilt-inducing statements. They focus on the urgency of the work that needs to be done, and the ways God is moving. They always, always, reveal a healthy dependency on the strong partnerships that exists between them, the people they work with and those who support them through prayer and giving. And they do not claim to be the heroes of their narratives, not even in the most passive-aggressive way.

Their lives remind me we are all beggars, in need of grace every single day. So to them I give what I can, gladly. As I have received from God, and from others. And I invite others to give to them as well. Because that kind of giving can only end in joy.