THE JOY OF GIVING – ADVENTURES IN GIVING and RECEIVING! Part 1
Talking about personal issues with money can be considered to be a taboo subject; not something one does in social settings. But in this article, following on from what I wrote last month about MONEY and our attitude to giving I’m going to break those taboos and testify to the way God has blessed me in my life as I’ve sort to put into practice what I wrote about last month! I am well aware of what Jesus taught when he said, “When you give don’t let your right hand know what your left is doing – (Matt 6:2, 3). In one way I have no desire to make public my giving habits, EXCEPT for the fact that I do want to encourage people who perhaps have never been taught to look to God to provide for their needs to step out into deeper water, in faith that what God has done for others He will do for you as you develop your faith in Him to provide for you. ! I could write it in the 3rd person as Paul did when recounting the amazing experiences he had when he was caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor 12:1-5), but then you could say, well how do you know that person was telling the truth?!
Countless people use money to make a statement about their lives; it is flaunted everywhere as people show off their latest acquisition, the diamond ring, the new car, the country mansion, the private jet etc. Young people dream of being football or pop-stars so they can afford the ‘high-life’! Many people immediately make a judgement about such people; they’ve got somewhere in their lives; they’ve climbed the social ladder; we must look up to them. At least that has been the mentality of many in most nations for millennia; if you’ve got money you’ve made it! As Christians we are told to boast only in the Lord. (See Gal 6:14 &15). If this article comes across to you in any other way, that is not my intention; rather I want to boast in the fact that I have come to know Father God to be true to His promises to provide for all my needs according to His riches in glory! (Phil4:19).
Jesus was very forthright in His teaching about money, making the statement recorded in both Matt 6:24 and Luke 16:13 that you cannot serve both God and ‘mammon’. Mammon can be translated as money, status, fame, earthly possessions or anything you trust or rely on instead of God. He had a lot to say about money; in fact I have heard it said that He taught more about money than any other subject! If you remember the parable of the sower, the thorns which grew up and choked the growth of the good seed were likened to the worries and distractions of the world and the deceitfulness (the superficial pleasures and delight) of riches. In one of his letters to Timothy Paul wrote, “…for the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1Tim6:10)
These passages epitomise the environment in which I grew up in a household where MAMMON was in charge and GOD wasn’t. The appearance of being financially secure was displayed in an above average size house in a more pricey part of London, but behind closed doors members of the extended family – none of whom were Christians – were at loggerheads over money; so much so that it took 5 years after my father’s death to sort out the mess – the cancer he developed and his subsequent death in his mid 70’s was brought on, he believed, by the stressful situation that had been created in the dispute about money.
Quite early on in my Christian experience I learned about tithing but the thought of giving away my hard earned salary was difficult for me – I was a miser; I had been brought up to save for a rainy day and only buy what I could afford; nothing on credit except a mortgage!
But as the years went by I began to start trusting God’s Word more and more and standing on the promises that He would provide for all my needs. I was taught to pray specifically for what I needed – being told, “If you are not specific in what you ask for: how can you know that you have received it from God?”
At first I learned to trust Him for the smaller things; because of the stresses in the family during my adolescent years I suffered from very low self esteem; from early adolescence I had the sense that I didn’t belong in the crowd; being so much taller my peers didn’t help, and in those days finding clothes and shoes for extra tall females was difficult to say the least; I viewed my appearance very negatively and dressed accordingly! But some time after I was born again, I started to think differently. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asked his listeners, “Why do you worry about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field… if God so clothes them, will He not much more clothe you, you of little faith!” [Matt6:28-30] So I started to increase my faith by trusting in God to clothe me. Up until then shopping for clothes had often presented difficulties but I learned to tell Him precisely what I was looking for, then I would often find something which was just what I liked; often at a knock down price in the sales. When I needed a specific outfit, be it a winter coat or a wedding outfit, usually I found something which suited me very well! Sometimes He would even surprise me by leading me to a place to buy accessories which perfectly complimented the outfits; I once bought a beautiful handbag to go with a wedding outfit reduced from £80 to £20! The same went for household goods when I found what I was looking for – often in charity shops! It wasn’t that I couldn’t afford to buy such objects, but in that way I saw Father enabling me to save money for other things!
So later, as my faith in His provision for me grew, so did the challenges! When I was looking for a flat as a first home, I wrote down everything I wanted; a balcony, an open view, a small garden and a garage to name but a few! One day my father just happened to be in an estate agents office who knew that I was looking for a property when a 1st floor maisonette came in; I was the first person to see it and knew it was the place God had for me as it met all the criteria! The open view from my back bedroom or the 6 foot square balcony looked southwards right across East London to whereone could see the North Downs south of the Thames, many miles away. Nearer the property was a sports field bordered by a river in habited by various wild fowl including swans. So muchmore than I had ever expected to get in a built up suburb of London!
A few years later when I needed a tent to use at Christian camps He provided me with one which met everything on the list; again I wrote down my requirements and again I found exactly what I was looking for; This time it was the last one available in the warehouse as that style was being discontinued and I got it at a reduced price! It served me faithfully for nearly 30 years and I was able to share it with many other people so that they were also able to attend the camps.
The next big purchase was in 1993, when I decided I needed more room in my home to offer hospitality. The offer of a private purchase of a bungalow had come up. It had belonged one of my mother’s friends who had recently died, and was to be sold so that her 3 children could have a share of the money. So I had the sticky situation of knowing how much to pay for it. Because they were family friends I wanted to offer the RIGHT amount for it. At that time other properties in the vicinity were going for around £135,000; much more than I could afford. A friend suggested I should offer £99,000 but I felt that that was too little. So I asked God and the figure £110,000 came into my mind. After a family meeting to discuss what they wanted for it one of the daughters came to me and told me that they had decided on £110,000! Imagine my delight in having that confirmation of hearing accurately from God! That helped to build my faith up massively and since then, whenever there has been a financial need of any description I try to remember to ask God, “How much do you want me to give?”
On another occasion a friend of mine was going out to Tibet on a Christian mission and needed to find the air-fare. The amount of money I felt God wanted me to offer him made quite a hole in my bank balance, but after he had received it he told me that it was exactly the amount which he had needed to raise to be able to purchase his ticket! By that time I had come to realise that actually the money I have in my bank account needs to be seen as God’s money and I have to steward it wisely for His purposes.
When it came to my retirement from teaching I knew the staff would be collecting money for a gift for me, and I fully expected that someone would ask me what I would like; but no-one did. So I told God but no one else what I would enjoy receiving and left it at that. You can imagine my great joy when I was given exactly what I had asked Him for – two wooden garden chairs! But in addition they came with padded cushions and some attractive pot plants! (Sadly I had to find another home for them when I left London as I have no garden in which to use them in Dorset!)