Miroslav spoke today about his latest book, “Free of Charge : Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace” (and follow Corey’s example, listen to me, and read this book). As so many have said, it is so important what and how we think about God. It’s the stripped down versions of faith, he said, which lead most easily to abuse and injustice. Who is the God we serve? Much of what Miroslav has written is to help us see God as the self-giving giver.
Gift giving is so difficult to do well. How one gives is so important. Our very gifts can come with strings attached, with expectations, with “receiving” in mind. Our giving is so often self-serving. What percentage of the budget of the church, he asked, goes to meet needs outside the needs of the church? In most churches, not much; so even our giving to the church can be a way to take care of ourselves.
He proposes a simple but challenging guideline: Give just a bit more than you expect to receive. We can start with small steps, moving toward God’s example in Jesus. Christ gave everything, completely, emptying himself and dying to reconcile the rebellers. But it isn’t possible for humans to get to that extreme, and it’s very frustrating to try. So, the beginning step is to give just a bit more than we expect to receive, and look for ways to push ourselves to do that.
Itâ€™s irrational to give more than you expect to receive. The people Miroslav speaks with on the street and in the coffee shops donâ€™t get it. He said, â€œI have to spend half an hour just making the idea plausible to them! That is a symptom of the illness that has fallen on our society.â€ And that illness has infected us in Christian communities just as much as the rest of society. To follow Jesus is fundamentally irrational. To model our lives after Jesus, who gives himself for people who have rebelled, isn’t logical.
But it is the heart of the good news of God in Jesus Christ. The way to healed relationship with the one who made us is something the Creator accomplished, at a cost. In the long run, it will all make sense. In the short run, we’re asked to follow the irrational example of Jesus, and give to others without expecting the return on our investment to be positive.
Give just a bit more than we expect to receive.