Of Hearts and Treasures

27Dec10

It’s the end of 2010 – I can hardly believe it!  It’s the time of year for looking back and seeing what God has done – expected and unexpected, exciting and not-so-exciting, normal and, well, abnormal. :-)  It’s been one crazy year!  This is the time of year when I begin to plan for the next year – writing that “list” of things to do (some people call those things New Years’ Resolutions), planning what I think the coming year will look like (incidentally, I find it hilarious that I still do this, given how much God usually changes things around in 12 months…), reviewing my personal budget and revising it for the coming year, and finishing up whatever year-end things I think are especially important.

This also happens to be the time of year when a lot of people think about giving (things, money, presence, and time, among other entities).  Giving can be a celebration, an expression of gratitude, an act of worship, an investment, or simply a way to get a tax break.  While cheerful giving is often extolled as a virtue, the reality is that giving goes against my very nature.  Giving things, money, presence, or time to others (even those I love) means giving up things, money, presence, or time that I could have called my own.  Giving means getting outside of my own little world and seeing outside the kingdom of self.  To be honest, I’m not very good at giving.  I’m not very good at unselfishness.  Sure, I support missions.  I support my local church.  For years I’ve tithed (given 10% of my gross income) to my church.  I’ve also supported several missionaries and ministries on a monthly basis for almost as long as I can remember.  Giving, so far, has been “easy.”  I have a good job, my expenses are low, I’m still able to save, and the tax benefits of financial giving are pretty sweet.  Giving has also been, for the most part, a habit.  A good habit.  But not really anything more than a habit…

What would it take to make giving something more?  Why not just leave the good habit alone?  Why do I feel a need to make giving something more than just giving?!

Several years ago my church began a capital campaign to raise funds for some much-needed improvements to our 150+ year-old building.  As part of the campaign, a good number of us in the church went through a month-long devotional focused on financial giving.  Many of the readings were from sermons that either Dr. Ryken or Dr. Tripp had preached over the years.  One point in particular stuck out to me – as it had when Dr. Ryken was preaching through Luke:

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  –Luke 12:32-34 (ESV)

I always thought I understood that passage – especially the last part.  If you give everything away (for the right reasons), you eventually end up with a much higher net value in heaven.  What I have never seen, though, was what Dr. Ryken pointed out [paraphrased a bit here as I don’t have the source handy]:

Put your treasure where you want your heart to be, and your heart will follow.

In other words, give where you want to care, even if you don’t care.  Give where you eventually want to be involved, even if you aren’t involved right now.  Give to change the world so that someday you will change the world.  Give to change your heart.  Give to rid yourself of the “old” you.  GIVE! Somehow, inexplicably, the act of giving changes me.

I found that concept pinging around in my head every now and then, but since I was already giving financially in four or five places every month, I thought I was doing pretty well. :-)

Then this October I met Sunny.

On our last day in Cape Town, the four Philly girls joined about 30 other stewards for dinner at Addis in Cape, a fabulous Ethiopian restaurant several blocks from where I was staying.  Since there were over 300 stewards who served at the Lausanne Congress, I obviously didn’t get the chance to talk to all of them, and there were a good many at dinner whom I hadn’t really met.  It just so happened that one of the guys sitting at our “table” was Sunny Kang, an American who is currently teaching at a Christian school on the other side of the globe.

The conversation obviously got around to missions, and I eventually shared where I’m headed and how I hope to serve.  The ensuing (animated) conversation with Sunny and the others at our table was really encouraging for me, but I was stunned when Sunny told me he would consider supporting me.  Here was someone I’d just met already offering to share (financially) in the work God has called me to.  Someone who’s already serving the Lord away from home, taking a much smaller salary than he could make in the States, but willing to be used by God to bless others.  Because the shock must have registered on my face, Sunny began to explain his joy in giving.  He said that as a student he’d been challenged by a certain Dr. Michael Oh to give more, give more consistently, and give more consistently to the places that really need it.  Sunny said his goal for 2010 was to give to the work of the gospel in 30 countries!  I was stunned.  Talk about vision!!!

Well, if you know anything about Michael Oh, you know he’s no stranger to my church.   As providence would have it, Michael was going to be preaching at Tenth‘s Global Outreach conference two weeks after I got back from Cape Town.  What I didn’t know is that he would be preaching on giving. :-)  Michael’s sermon, “Life’s Mission,” was the kind that made me want to pump my fist in the air and yell, “Preach it, brother, preach it!”  (I don’t know that I would ever actually do that at Tenth, but I was certainly doing it inside!)  About 23 ½ minutes into the sermon, I began to get really excited.  At 24 ½ minutes, I realized Michael was sharing Sunny’s testimony of joyful giving with my entire church!  You should hear what Sunny’s giving is doing in the world!!!  Sunny is just one young leader, but already he is making an incredible investment in eternity.

I left church that day challenged to give – sacrificially, globally, and with eternity in mind.  I went home and made a list.  [I like lists.]  Only I’d never made a list quite like this before.  I wrote down all the missionary/global outreach families whose pictures were on my bulletin board.  These are the people I admire for their dedication to the gospel.  I know most of them personally, yet have not contributed much (if anything) financially to supporting them in their callings.  Yes, I’ve prayed for them, but I have found that I pray for something a lot more when I have a vested interest in the outcome. :-)  So that day I came up with a dozen families and two organizations I wanted to support financially before the end of 2010, representing the spread of Jesus’ kingdom in 12 countries.  So far, I’ve given to eight of these 14, which means I have six more to complete by Friday.

Giving is a spiritual discipline.  It’s an act of worship.  It’s an amazing way to share the blessing of the Savior with those who have never heard.  It’s a way to go when you can’t physically get up and leave.  But more than any of that, giving is the most concrete way I can think of to focus my heart on the things of eternity.  When I give, I’m putting my earthly treasure into God’s hands.  Oh, how wonderful to have my heart follow!

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