Giving

Let us suppose that the rich young man who came to Jesus to ask what more he could do to inherit the kingdom of God represents you. At first you might protest either because you do not think of yourself as rich, as young, or as sufficiently in charge of your own material possessions. Or perhaps you don’t see yourself reflected in his story because, unlike him, you have not always obeyed the commandments since your youth and you still feel that, before you can start giving away everything you have, you must remain focused on overcoming yourself. 

But if King Benjamin is correct, there is really no such thing as wealth, since there really is nothing to own, nothing to hold back from others, nothing to circumscribe or wrap your arms around. You are merely temporarily granted, by the grace of God, whatever privileges or advantages are yours, and the only reason you are given these gifts is so that you may recirculate them into a flowing system of gifts that bless all of humanity. According to the parable of the talents, you should not hide them and you should not hoard them. You should multiply and give them away. We are beggars all, and once convinced of this fundamental fact, there is really nothing for you to do but to give, to give freely, steadily, constantly. Like the young rich man, you need to understand that every dimension of your life is intended for others. You are just asked to direct the traffic of gifts that come your way and see to it that they keep circulating into the lives of others. Imagine that it is an all-or-nothing game. Either you are in the business of giving up your life or you are not. You either love with all of our hearts or you don’t love at all. Besides, the principle is simple: you can’t be saved until you lose yourself. In this particular season (and especially this week) of political tension, maybe you have felt slighted by the strong and, of course, wrong opinions of others. But remember what is most important. If you don’t have charity, it doesn’t matter what you have, what gifts you own, what knowledge you have gained. And you cannot love in theory, you cannot give lip service to love; you must love particular individuals in their particular circumstances and this requires a commitment to proximity, to dialogue, and to genuine offers of friendship. Christ insists that these relationships must extend to those who do not love in return and to those most different and most challenging to love; all are your brothers and sisters and not merely metaphorically speaking. We are a family. While loving those who love us is no small thing, it is also no great challenge, and it is certainly no indication of full spiritual maturation. No matter how right your cause, no matter how exceptional your devotion to what is true, if you cannot muster genuine love in your hearts—love that you can give away at any and all times and to everyone— you are nothing.

Well, you are nothing, but that’s the good news. It is King Benjamin’s point. Remember that, he says. Always remember that. But also remember the goodness of God, recognize your dependence on a giving and generous God who has placed resources in your hands—resources of time, abilities, financial and material means, intellectual and spiritual understanding, education and experiences, and relationships—and he expects you to treat them like hot potatoes. Get them off your desk and out of your hands, wipe your slate of “to dos” and keep starting life all over, keep spending your inheritance. The good news is, as King Benjamin says, once God knows He has a genuine giver to work with, the gifts will keep coming so fast, you will never erase the debt.

Unwrapping an unexpected gift is one of the great pleasures of life. Giving one is even better. And it is helpful to remember that this is precisely the kind of exchange that is inherent in the meaning of Christ’s birth and his death. Spiritual growth begins by coming to a realization of your special and unique gifts—those unique set of circumstances, experiences, personality, and means that constitute your life. This is what no one else can give quite like you and why it feels so good to give so genuinely of yourself. Spiritual maturity is reached when you begin to see how often and in how many ways you are called to give away the very things that make you who you are. You don’t have to obtain anything so that you can give it away. You certainly don’t have to buy anything. You already have more than enough. Don’t shrink. Open your door. Everyone wants to be called to a great work, and that work is love.


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