On May 24, the Wall Street Journal ran an article entitled, “Charities: Tough Times Call for Smarter Giving.”
The author, Jonnelle Marte states: “When wallets get lean, checkbooks tend to stay closed — and checks to charity become rarer.”
“Amid the recession and stock-market losses, philanthropy consultants say all donors are re-evaluating their giving. Those who would normally give new charities a chance are sticking with groups they know. Some are giving smaller gifts or none at all. Over the past year, a number of corporations have ended or trimmed their matching-gift programs.”
Seems natural right? When times get tight, give less. Tighten our belts. Circle the wagons. Give less. Who would expect someone to give more when they’re poor? That would be unnatural.
But Christians aren’t natural. We’re supernatural. We operate by grace.
Grace empties itself and pours itself out for others. In his grace, God gave up his precious Son to die to make sinners rich. In his grace Jesus impoverished himself, took on flesh, and sacrificed himself for his sheep.
Similarly, grace produces in us the impulse to impoverish ourselves for the sake of others:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord…” (2 CO 8.1 – 3)
Extreme poverty should have made the Macedonians close their wallets and re-evaluate their giving. Instead God’s grace caused the Macedonians to overflow in a wealth of generosity. Grace produced graciousness. Grace made them like the Giver of grace.
How we need God’s grace in these tough times. We can’t make our selfish hearts be generous. But God’s grace can. Grace moved Zacchaeus to give half his possessions to the poor and pay back 4 times those he’d cheated (LK 19). Grace moved a poor widow to give all she had to live on to God (LK 21)
Generosity in good times doesn’t take much grace. But lavishness in lean times springs from great grace and brings great glory to God. Tough times don’t call for smarter giving. They call for abundant grace.
photo by Jeff Keen