Showalter: How to give
When he said goodbye to the Ephesian elders at Miletus (Acts 20:35), Paul’s last words were, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” He quoted Jesus.
Questions about how to give dominate international conversations. In politics it’s about how to give or withhold the privilege of immigration. In development it’s about how to add value to a community in need. In the church it’s often about how to share resources without creating unhealthy dependence for the receiver or equally unhealthy enablement for the giver.
Answers are not easy. It seems that for every story of blessed giving there is another of gifts that are misguided or ill-informed.
It is a wonderful privilege to give. Recently my friend Mark Yoder told me a giving story that still brings tears of joy to repeat.
Yoder, a Mennonite pastor, sometimes travels to India as a teacher/preacher. Before he left a few months ago, he wrote to a few friends with an idea.
“I’d like to give something to the poorest of the poor in those Indian villages,” he said. “I’d like to do it in the name of Jesus. This will not be for the Indian Christians, poor as they are. Rather, it will be for their most needy neighbors.
“These will be small gifts of $25 each. They should be small gifts for you, too. So if you are led to give, don’t send me more than $200. When I reach India, I will give these gifts of $25 (one month’s wage) each to the Christian women who attend our meetings, as long as the money lasts. I will tell them that these gifts are not for them, but rather for them to give to their most needy neighbors.”
Yoder was amazed to receive more than $8,000 from his friends for these gifts. When he reached India, he distributed them to 325 women. They in turn would ask God to lead them to their most destitute neighbors. They would give these gifts in the name of Jesus as a demonstration of the love of God. Yoder could sense their joy in anticipation. Never before had they been able to give so much.
He was scarcely prepared, though, for the inspiring stories that began to flow back to him.
One gift went to 22-year-old Junash. He and his family had no money to buy seeds to sow in their field. With the gift, he purchased seeds and reaped an abundant harvest. Even before he received the gift he had been impressed with the orderly, happy lives of Christians in his village. Now he was overwhelmed with the gift, and after the harvest he was baptized and is sharing his newfound joy everywhere.
A young man named Aibo was poverty-stricken and could not afford even two meals a day. When he unexpectedly received his gift, he immediately went out and purchased puffed rice for resale. Now he has food for his family and is busy circulating among the villages as a rice merchant. He too gives glory to God and has become a follower of Jesus.
Radi, a 55-year-old woman, was worn out from hard work all her life and was very sick. But she had no money to see a doctor. When she received her gift, she went to a doctor for the first time. She was healed.
Yoder heard many other stories. In every case, the gift was simply an expression of the love of Christians for neighbors, and as a result the Holy Spirit transformed the life of a whole family.
All of this happened because an unknown someone, somewhere, was moved by the same Spirit to give a little something, both to and through the body of Christ, without recognition.
Richard Showalter lives in Irwin, Ohio, and travels in Asia, Africa, the U.S. and beyond as a teacher, preacher, writer and servant.
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