These days everyone and their dog wants you and me to give to their cause, show up to their event, share their post, like their page, support their fundraiser, buy their cookie dough, or sponsor their latest sub-Saharan mission adventure. Am I right?
I’m going to go on a bit of a rant here. I hope you join me because I just don’t care. I don’t care about the giving guilt trips. I don’t care about why charity “C” is the humanitarian choice, how many World Vision kids should be taking up real estate on my fridge, or what ‘good Christians’ ought to do about human trafficking. And I don’t care if people think I should.
You know why? I don’t live for them, I don’t belong to them, and I don’t answer to them. I answer to just one Person — Jesus Christ. My Lord and Savior lived an epic life for me, kept himself pure for me, bled rivers of blood for me, died to forgive me, and defeated death to share his victory with me. Everything about his story was a love-song rock-anthem meant to energize my life with his perfect example. His heartbeat centers me. His melody moves me. His chorus brings me to my feet to join the triumphal procession.
I refuse to live on autopilot, to trade Christ’s passion for obligation. I rage against the subtle forces tempting me to hide behind walls made of selfish excuses. I reject apathy like it’s the devil himself. I won’t allow the cynicism of the world to smother the love fire churning in my heart. Jesus loves his bride, his church — so we give ten percent of our income to that. And yes, we have a World Vision kid living on our fridge. But I’m also going to keep giving ‘till it hurts, weep with those who weep, break for the broken, and stand up for the abused. I’ve just decided the world can’t tell me how, where, or when to do it. Only Jesus can. And he does.
A few months ago I found myself working on an Angus burger combo at McDonald’s. Between bites, I noticed a weathered guy in his early sixties sitting a few feet away. We made eye contact. I smiled.
“Where are your buddies?” he asked, mistaking me for someone else.
“Maybe you’re my buddy,” I replied, smiling again. He smiled back this time. I asked if he lived nearby, and he hesitated, eventually confessing he’d been sleeping behind a local store recently.
“Have you had lunch?” I asked.
“Uh, no. I don’t like McDonald’s burgers.” He was drinking the coffee.
“What do you like?”
“A&W. I like those buddy burgers.”
“Well then let’s go,” I announced. “Let me buy you lunch.”
I scarfed down the rest of my meal and off we went jaywalking across a major street and getting honked at because he moved pretty slowly, like he was in pain. He said his name was John.
“You know what John, you’re why I’m here today. God loves you so much,” I told him. John smiled again, wider this time. Despite his protesting, I bought him a full combo. We sat down at a booth together.
“You’re in pain, aren’t you?” I asked across the table.
He nodded. “I got hit by a car six months ago.”
“Where does it hurt?”
“Everywhere. All over.”
“Well, where does it hurt today?” I asked, feeling the love of Jesus for him. He pointed to his shoulder and forearm, which I’d noticed had a very limited range of motion. I asked if I could pray for him and I did, reaching out in Jesus’ name. He checked it. To his surprise, it was moving a little better. After praying a second time his range of motion was noticeably better and the shoulder pain was mostly gone.
After shaking John’s hand and blessing him, I reminded him how much he mattered to God. And then I went on my way, thanking God for giving me eyes to see.
“This is my prayer,” said Paul, and it inspires me: “That your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.” (Colossians 1:9-11). Did you hear that? Our love is supposed to become more strategic, focused, and effective over time. We’re supposed to learn how to bear more fruit, to love better, not just more. God gets more glory when we do what’s best, not just what’s expected.
That’s why I want to be a Macedonian. Macedonians were off-the hook Jesus lovers who understood the heart of generosity. Paul was bragging about them in his letter to the Corinthian church when he said, “They exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us… since you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you, see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” (2 Corinthians 8:5,7)
Yeah, I can do all things through him who gives me strength — but I’m not called to do all things. I’m called to excel at giving by giving myself to Jesus so he can decide how to spend me. That includes my time, my energy, my focus, my bank account. If Jesus wants to pour me out like a drink offering, so be it. If he wants to march me into battle, bring it on. If he wants me loving in obscurity, or sharing lunch with a homeless guy, I accept. That also means turning down a lot of sales pitches.
I’ll leave you with this prayer: “Jesus, how would you like to spend me today?”