For God so loved the world He gave His only Son. John 3:16
To learn how a human being develops from the time of conception is truly amazing. All of the information needed for an entire life is already contained in that one cell, a combination of a male and a female cell. From this one cell begins the process of diversification that eventually forms all the physical developments of organs, muscles, features, and other capabilities that comprise the human being. Even more amazing is the embodiment and development of the soul in that whole process in ways we cannot comprehend: How does the breath of God shape the creation of the person? What does it mean that we were made in the image of God? Where does the capability to love come from?
Since the answers are beyond our comprehension, the best we can do is respond with praise to the Creator, who gave us all these capabilities and abilities, and do our best to create an environment in which all of these capabilities have the best possible way of developing in the way the Creator intended, both before and after the birth of each human being. Such a response involves growing beyond the surface understanding of the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism. What if not only “my only comfort,” but also my hope, joy, peace, and all the other things I need are given to me through the Creator’s gift of love which has been secured for me by faith through grace? Then, I think, I must live a life of gratitude that gives praise to the God of grace and treat those with whom I come into contact as if they deserve the same grace I have received.
Giving in this way is not easy. I am one of several people who transport two people of need to a local dialysis center. During the nearly six years of doing this I have often thought about why I would waste my time transporting these people when there are more important things to do. When the two people we are helping are brought to the car by wheelchair and helped in, I reflect on the fact that I am able to walk, have a properly functioning liver, and have plenty of money to afford the gas to make my way if I were to have such needs. Then I find joy that God led me to this opportunity to help those who cannot help themselves. The reward of thank you, even from those who do not speak my language, is sufficient to confirm my continual exercising of the gifts I have on behalf of those who need help.
Many people have influenced me in developing this view of gracious giving — people like my grandfather, who was a county commissioner in Gallatin Valley, Montana; the Reverend B.J. Haan, who demonstrated the gift of giving in his commitment to the development of Dordt College; and Maurice TePaske, who showed me the merits of a life lived in the service of one’s community when I served on the City Council.
But such giving need not always be altruistic or based in charity. In the mid 1980’s, the “total quality management” movement focused on the concept of “never let your employees go to work another day of their life.” Work, too, is a gift, given in service of others. We work to provide a product or service that serves others somehow, not to receive a salary or wage. The latter is not why we work and shouldn’t motivate our work; rather, our income is a reward that enables us to live our lives in service to others, out of gratitude for all the gifts God has given us (including our talents in various fields).
That is why I don’t agree with those who say that busy-ness or the demands of our jobs make it hard for us to live lives of free and gracious giving. In my opinion, the gift of giving is hardest not for those busy with work (who give of themselves every day at work), but for those in most desperate poverty and those who live with affluence. Those in poverty rely on God for their existence and have to struggle to meet basic needs, so they often do not have an opportunity to share. Those with affluence don’t think they need God, so they consider sharing to be a roadblock to meeting the needs of their greed.
Today, many of us seem to fall into this latter category. The old adage of “give until it hurts” appears to have changed now to “giving hurts.” What would happen if we took the attitude and disposition that “living is giving” and “giving is living”? What if we truly acknowledge all that we have received from God, and pledge to live a life of gracious living in response for all we have received? If you have this worldview, you are on the right road.