The wisdom of giving gifts


By Betty Slade

To give or not to give: That’s the question. We’re in the season of giving, but does that mean throwing caution to the wind and giving into reckless abandonment? Some will, some won’t.

We find ourselves pulled in two directions. The need and the needy. The gift and the giver. The need is there, but the giver hasn’t either the means or the desire to meet the need.

Proverbs 22:9 says, “He who has a bountiful eye shall be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor” (Amplified).

There is a God kind of giving. A bountiful eye has more to do with the heart. To give with a bountiful eye is not to see what we don’t have, but what we do have. We’re connected to the One who owns it all. If God asks us to give, He will give us the means to do it.

I always felt if I had the means to give, I needed to do so. I knew all the scriptures about giving. “I’ve been freely given so then I need to freely give” — Matthew 10:8 (KJV). Or, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive” — Acts 20:35. 

I’ve said to my children many times, “It’s better to err on the side of giving.” I learned a very valuable lesson this week. There is something I’ve been missing: discernment. Giving without discernment is suicide. Did I ask God if I should give or not? No. If I had it to give, I gave.

It wasn’t that I was so noble or compassionate, but I loved the feeling of making others happy. Later, I would hear a small voice say inside, “I didn’t ask you to give that away, but you didn’t ask me. This was my provision for you.”

Lack of discernment made me a target for many religious and secular people who knew how to work the system. It was a lack in me that drew me in. I got caught up in the moment and didn’t ask God if I should give or not. The moment swept me away. Later I felt deceived, used and even a fool.

Another lesson I learned about giving: For 21 years, my Sweet Al and I held Christian artists’ and writers’ retreats. We enjoyed being with our guests and we couldn’t do enough for them. When we started to count the cost, our hearts closed to the people we gave to. No longer were we cheerful givers. We began to resent what others expected.

I asked one of my friends who always came alongside and worked with us to provide accommodations for a weekend of fun for our 30-plus guests. 

“We spend months preparing for these retreats; we always come up short financially. We give freely. Does anyone know what it takes to get ready for a retreat? Does anyone know the cost?”

In her wisdom, she said, “They’re not supposed to know.”

Many years before, I stood at another similar crossroads in my life. The Lord warned me, “Don’t curse what you’ve blessed. What you and Al gave, don’t take away the blessings of those years by closing your hearts. Those blessings are alive and will continue. You planted a seed. That little seed is producing great harvest. You gave in the spirit of giving and people will carry your labor of love into many generations.”

Why was I whining? Because I was looking at my empty pocketbook and a possible burnout, not on God’s riches from heaven.

I wished I could say we had accepted grace enough for everything and everyone who came our way, who passed our doors, slept in our beds and ate at our table, but at times I lost sight of God’s grace. God doesn’t ask any more than what He has given us.

Even when we lacked discernment and our grace ran thin, the Lord was still blessing us and our efforts. Today, He is still teaching us about His kind of giving. It’s a lifetime lesson.

Final brushstroke: This is the season of giving. God showed us how much he loved us by giving His Son. God knew the whole ramification of His Son coming, being born in a world that needed him, but would reject Him. Did He not freely give? Do we know the cost? Even if we don’t, he would have still given.

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