Singled Out for Him: Giving Extravagantly
- 2003 25 Aug
Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree is a wonderful children's story that illustrates the blessings of being a giver rather than a taker. The apple tree in this parable gives gifts to a little boy-apples to eat when he is hungry, shade when he is hot and tired, and branches on which he can climb and play.
As the years pass, the tree gives up all its branches to meet various needs and demands of the boy who is becoming a man. Finally, all that is left of the tree is a stump, which the tree offers as a seat to the grown man who has returned to his childhood home. The man, who has spent all his life taking from others, is now disconsolate and empty, while the tree that has always been so generous is contented and happy.
Written more than two centuries earlier, the words of Ugo Bassi remind us that the richest person is the one who has given most:
Measure thy life by loss
instead of gain;
Not by the wine drunk
but by the wine poured out.
Unfortunately, our natural instinct is to be takers rather than givers. Perhaps no society in the history of the world has been more materially prosperous than ours. Yet studies reveal that our giving is on the decline rather than the rise. Our prosperity has bred increased selfishness, stinginess, and insecurity. How contrary this is to the heart of God and to the nature of the gospel itself!
Many of us as singles have fewer financial obligations and, therefore, more discretionary income than those who have dependent children. This fact ought to be reflected in our giving. A key principle in God's Word is that "Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord ..." (Deut. 16:17, emphasis mine). It's simple: those of us who have been blessed with more resources (money, time, possessions) ought to be more generous in giving to meet the needs of others and in investing in the work of His kingdom.
Mary of Bethany was a single woman who loved Jesus deeply. The greatest expression of her love came when she anointed the feet of Jesus with a pound of costly ointment. Those who observed were indignant at her lavish worship. How fanatical! Such a waste, they thought. But what could be more wasteful than to lavish such costly gifts on ourselves?
Unfortunately, the more we have, the more we think we need, the more we want, and the more those things begin to control our lives and affect our values.
Many years ago, I made the decision that, particularly as long as I was single, I did not want to own anything that I didn't need to own, unless the purpose of that possession was to enable me to invest more effectively in the lives of others and the Kingdom of Christ.
I'll confess this is all easier said than done. It is easy to deceive ourselves and to confuse needs with wants. But I don't want "things" to have a grip on my life. On a regular basis, I look for ways to counter my natural bent toward covetousness by giving away items I do not really need.
On occasion, the Lord prompts me to give away some funds or a possession that I think I really do need. These are wonderful opportunities to prove my heart is truly surrendered to Jesus as Lord, to walk by faith, and to consciously depend on Him to meet my needs. I don't want to own anything that I'm not willing to give to Jesus, or to another believer in need, on a moment's notice.
Then, at the end of each year, I take time to evaluate my giving for that year, and to consider prayerfully ways that I can give more the next year. When I was a young girl, God placed in my heart a desire to give everything I possibly can during my lifetime for the sake of Christ and His kingdom. I have always found that this is the most joyous and secure way to live.
Such was the experience of Frances Ridley Havergal, the nineteenth century hymn writer who penned the words to that familiar hymn of consecration "Take My Life." One of the lines in that hymn reads: "Take my silver and my gold; Not a mite would I withhold." Frances once wrote to a friend:
"Take my silver and my gold" now means shipping off all my ornaments-including a jewel cabinet which is really fit for a countess-to the Church Missionary Society. ... I retain only a brooch for daily wear, which is a memorial of my dear parents; also a locket. ... I had no idea I had such a jeweler's shop. ... I don't think I need tell you I never packed a box with such pleasure.
If we want to have the heart of the Lord Jesus, we should always be looking for opportunities to give spontaneously and extravagantly. As singles, there are specific needs in the body of Christ that God may allow us to help meet:
• helping a family provide Christian education for their children
• strengthening a marriage by sending a couple a gift certificate for a date night
• providing funds for a family in ministry to have a weekend getaway
• ministering to the needs of a widow on a limited income
• supporting various ministries and missionaries, as well as the ministry of our own local churches
• making available an extra bedroom in our home for those who need a place to stay.
As the son of a wealthy businessman and heir of the Borden Milk Company, William Borden could have settled for a life of convenience and ease. Instead, he chose to lay down his life and resources for the sake of Christ and His kingdom.
When William graduated from high school in 1904, his father sent him on a cruise around the world. Brokenhearted by the spiritual needs of the people he met, William committed his life to serving Jesus Christ as a missionary.
He dedicated his college years at Yale to mastering the Word of God and reaching those around him with the gospel of Christ. Finally, the time came for him to leave for the mission field. Headed for China, he sailed first to Egypt, where he contracted spinal meningitis and died less than a month later.
As they did with Mary of Bethany, some would say of William Borden, "What a waste." But the offering up of William's life has produced a multiplied harvest of righteousness. Countless young men, inspired by his wholehearted devotion to Christ, have risen to take his place on the mission fields of the world.
William's commitment to the Lord resulted in a lifestyle of sacrificial giving. When his will was probated, it was discovered that he had left his entire fortune of over one million dollars to be invested in the cause of Christ, in addition to thousands of dollars that he had given away during his short lifetime.
After his death, the following three phrases were found in the flyleaf of William's Bible:
Giving is the greatest expression of genuine love. Learn to give lavishly-with "no reserves." Learn to give every time God prompts your spirit with the need of another person. Give when you think you can afford it; give when you think you can't afford it!
Our most sacrificial giving will never come close to matching that of Jesus: "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" (2 Cor. 8:9). Only those who choose to follow in the steps of that great Giver will be able to look back on their lives with "no regrets."
Excerpted from Singled Out for Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Copyright © 1998 by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Used by permission of Life Action Ministries.
Since 1980 Nancy Leigh DeMoss has served as the Director of Publications and Women's Ministries and as the editor of Spirit of Revival magazine, for Life Action Ministries, a revival ministry, based in Niles, Michigan. She is the author of A Place of Quiet Rest: Finding Intimacy with God Through a Daily Devotional Life, Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets Them Free and A 30-Day Walk With God in the Psalms (Moody Press). Nancy also hosts Revive Our Hearts, a daily radio program for women that airs each weekday on over 200 stations nationwide. Visit reviveourhearts.com