Every few weeks, a friend in poverty helps me make dinner and eats with my family. She usually takes home the leftovers, but this time she forgot to bring a container. Feeling generous, I decided to give her one of mine.
I sifted past my new containers with clear bottoms and attractive burgundy lids, reaching for an avocado green relic purchased at a thrift store. My friend turned up her nose at it. I harrumphed silently, thinking her ungrateful. Then the Holy Spirit asked me to give her my favourite container.
Like a creaky door on rusty hinges, my selfish heart complained as I filled the lovely container to the brim with delicious leftovers.
Looking from the outside, you would probably say I am generous. I give regularly to my church and to a number of charities on behalf of my family. I also volunteer several hours per week. But since when does God care about how we look from the outside?
People of faith do well
In 2013, the World Giving Index ranked Canada third for giving money, volunteering and helping a stranger. That year, Canadians collectively gave $12.8 billion dollars to charitable causes.
Canadians who attend religious services at least once per week are the most generous group of donors. According to a 2012 Statistics Canada article by Martin Turcotte, those who were not religious gave an average of $313 in 2010, while the “actively religious” gave an average of $1,004.
Looks like we have reasons to feel satisfied; on average, we give more than three times as much as citizens who are not committed to a faith.
But has the church in Canada truly tapped its capacity for giving? Have we dared to give sacrificially like the widow in the Bible who gave all she had to live on (Mark 12:41–44)?
This year, God began speaking to me about generosity. In Wild Goose Chase, Mark Batterson challenges readers to create a life goal list. It’s like a bucket list (things you want to do before you die) except that you set goals that are unattainable without God’s help.
I sensed God was asking me to believe him for money I could give to others. I wrote down a crazy-huge number as the amount I want to give away in my lifetime. If God doesn’t show up, it’s not going to happen.
Just thinking about this faith goal has begun to transform me. I’m considering what I could forgo in order to give a yearly amount that would help me achieve my lifetime giving goal. I’m also contemplating how to expand my business so that I can increase my capacity to be generous.
Blessings in every way
In the midst of my God-inspired ruminations, the pastors at my church preached a challenging series on generosity and gave out free copies of The Genius of Generosity by Chip Ingram for life groups to study.
Reflecting on 2 Corinthians 9:9–11, Ingram says, “God wants to bless our lives spiritually, relationally and materially – or as Paul says, ‘in every way.’ Why? So we can be generous on ‘every occasion.’ He pours out his blessing on us so our own needs can be met, but also so we can reinvest in others.”
While my church was talking about generosity, I began to catch a vision for what we might be able to do collectively – as a congregation, as churches in our community and the body of Christ in Canada.
At the Ontario Conference of MB Churches convention that I attended in February, the theme was Costly Multiplication. (I think God was trying to send me a message.) “Right now there is a Holy Spirit moment in Canada,” said Gord Fleming, director of the C2C Network, the MB-based church planting organ. “Will we surrender our resources for costly multiplication?”
What if we dropped our excuses and opened our wallets, cupboards and schedules?
What if we really did seek God’s kingdom first and allowed him to provide our daily needs? Imagine how many churches could be planted, missionaries sent out, supportive housing units built, job training programs funded, mothers and babies supported through crisis pregnancy centres, reforms to the justice system secured and so much more. We could be a fountain of holy blessing to our cities, towns, villages, provinces and nations.
We could reap a harvest of righteousness that results in thanksgiving to God – among Christians and those who don’t know him yet.
To me, it sounds more exciting than owning a new car or even the perfect container.
—Sandra Reimer works out her faith and builds her generosity muscles at Glencairn MB Church, Kitchener, Ont.