Relationally generous.

Ever felt too empty to give more to those who ask or need, or forgive one more time that person who doesn’t really deserve it?

Consider the limitations of your own soul, and then move from that tiresome place to consider the infinite grace of God found in Jesus — the One who gave far more than He received, and continues to give to us who don’t deserve one ounce of His compassion.

“Generosity is not contingent on what you receive, but on what you are willing to give… If we only give what we have received, we are nothing more than relational and emotional barterers.”

—Erwin Raphael McManus, Uprising: A Revolution of the Soul, 136.

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

——Paul speaking to the Ephesian Elders, applying the words of Jesus, Acts 20:35

In a world stocked full of self-style self-help gurus and manuals, the whole “God helps those who help themselves” mottoes fall far short. God helps those who plead on His Mercy. And He gives them more grace than they can manage to give away.

It’s hard to count on one hand how many times I hear as a pastor each week, “I just need to learn how to love and forgive myself more.” That’s an incomplete load of nonsense. (It’s partly true, as are all lies.) Find your dignity and worth in Christ, who has become your identity in all the ways He impressed the Father for you, and quit focusing all your energies on loving yourself — that’s code here in the West for normalizing our innate self-centeredness.

Why is it more blessed to give than to receive? Because that’s what God is like. He’s a Giver, not a Taker. Be like Him and quite taking so much and start giving yourself away. I’ll be seeking the same.

Tomorrow: go without shoes.

Because millions of kids go everyday without shoes, as I mentioned last week.

Why all the fuss? Who needs shoes?

TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoskie says that not having shoes puts kids at a heightened risk of injury, disease and infection. Among the soil-transmitted risks that most can’t afford to prevent and treat are:

  • Hookworm: Causes anemia, stunted physical and mental development and, on occasion, congestive heart failure. Affects up to one-fifth of the world’s population.
  • Podoconiosis or “mossy foot disease”: Causes swelling of the feet and legs due to prolonged exposure to certain types of irritant soil.
  • Chiggers: Bites on the feet and ankles from these mites can cause severe itching and hives.
  • Tetanus: Potentially fatal infectious disease caused by bacteria entering the body through cuts or other open wounds. Causes painful muscle spasms and locked jaw.

Want to give?

Our family supports the intentional Gospel-driven work of great organizations such as World Vision, Compassion, Africa New Life (Rwanda), and Open Arms (Kenya). We intentionally focus on the needs in Africa, but there are opportunities all over the globe for us to curb our consumerism and give joyfully to a cause greater than ourselves.

Maybe your Tuesday without shoes will go something like this:

One sign it will be a good day.

How does your day begin? Why on some days are we happy and free, and other days we wake up on the proverbial wrong-side-of the-bed? Perhaps there are many reasons, but consider a broader question first.

Where does generosity come from? We might tend to think we will be more generous with our time, talents, and treasure if only we had more. Or, if there were easier ways to ‘plug in’ and invest our time, use our talents, and give our treasure to others.

All of those opportunities are already before us. Everyday, and (just about) each moment. Being generous begins with being thankful. Gratitude is the key to changing our hearts to want to want to give our lives away for a cause much greater than our little lives.

Here’s a simple exercise we started doing a couple years back: on garbage day, watch the garbage truck pick up your trash. Seriously. Let’s pause our breakneck speed and consider the beauty of how someone drives by and picks up our trash. Better yet, when we hear the truck around the corner, say to our children, ‘Let’s watch the garbage truck!’ and rush to the window together to be awed.

Wait for the questions … this is a routine for us every Wednesday morning as my son considers important questions like “what do they do with all that garbage?” It has sparked many conversations on how the world works, our chores and responsibilities, why the recycling container is 4x the size as that garbage can, and how we can today choose to be thankful (aka “have a happy heart”).

Since the garbage truck circles around the back of our house, then up the other side of the street, back around on our side, and exits our neighborhood to the one behind us, there are four opportunities to say “there’s the garbage truck.” Of course, this may be a boy thing, and I’m doubtful our daughter will one day be as enthused. (We do the same thing with the street sweeper.)

Can you believe we are able to roll our garbage out to the curb? For about $20 a month? Are you kidding me? (Remember those old tin cans with the round lids that tended to blow off? Just remembered they didn’t have wheels, AND we had to purchase the cans ourselves.

I remember being jealous once as a kid that the neighbors had a fancy set of cans; they were colored plastic with special lids and built-in bungee cords that would latch them shut. They never had to be late to school because their cans tipped over with trash littering the street. We did.

There are people in developing nations walking trash across the city, barefoot, in the heat of the day, parched and yet not complaining about their lot in life. And I get to witness someone come by my house weekly and take our garbage out of sight and out of mind. In fact, there are two, as the recycling truck comes along later.

Sure there are opportunities for us to complain, worry, and get anxious. But if today the garbage truck stopped by to take your stinky heap of waste — that’s a good sign today will be a good day.