WHY WE GIVE
Why should one give one’s time, money, and talents to benefit someone or something else? This is a question that each of us must answer for ourselves.
Much of modern culture – and perhaps human nature – promotes putting one’s own interests ahead of anything or anyone else. The pressure to buy more, accumulate more things, and live a grander life is unrelenting. Advertisements for enticing things, places, and activities are ever present; we live in a consumer-based economy, and consume we must. There is also the matter of the Jones – our mythical neighbors who seem to be doing so much better than we can hope to achieve, whether they are actual neighbors or the unknown residents of the wonderful houses going up in a new development. Like it or not, most of us probably experience a tinge of jealousy for the life style of the those who are much better off.
Why should we give? Biblical instruction is one reason, and altruism is another – a desire to help others in need and make the world a better place.
The Bible is clear. Galatians 6:2, NRSV says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Jesus says it this way, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:19b). Many other scriptures require a spirit of generosity: “Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above” (James :17, NRSV). “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:86). One last example is 1 John 3:16-18: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”
Altruism is also a factor. Most of us struggle some with selfishness, but we also respond when we see people hurting and in need. There is an emotional reaction to pictures and stories of people’s lives devasted by natural disasters or the sufferings of those who are ill or facing death. We experience an urge to help when others face circumstances that are blatantly unfair or unjust.
So, one answer to the question posed at the top of this page is that we give when we are motivated by our faith, by need, and the hope of making a difference in someone’s life.
But motivation is just the beginning. It is the essential foundation for giving, but not sufficient in itself. In the words of John Wesley, one is called to “Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can.” This brings us to the concept of stewardship, which is the science of managing one’s resources (time, talents, and money) in a responsible manner so that one has something to share. Remember the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30)? That is stewardship in a nutshell.