Exploring a Rule of Life 6: Give

Exploring a Rule of Life 6: Give

We’re coming to the end of Lent as we look ahead to Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Perhaps for Lent you gave something up – or you took something up – or perhaps Lent felt like one thing too many this year, and adding a new habit or a self-denial was a bridge too far. Perhaps you started something but gave up.

Well, luckily, seeing through a self-discipline for forty days – isn’t really what Lent’s about.

We’ve been looking at our six practices for a Rule of Life this Lent too – praying, reading, learning; and telling, serving, and today, giving. And because they are all verbs, all practices, things to do, you might be forgiven for thinking the Rule of Life – and indeed, Christian faith – are about doing. 1m

But, luckily: doing, – doing the right thing, and not doing the wrong things, – are not in fact, what Christianity, or a Rule of Life, are about, either.

My Dad used to say, ‘Being comes before doing’.

What’s the point of a Rule of Life, of the practices of faith, then? The Rule of Life is like the legs of a stool, or the walls of a house. The legs of a stool give you a place to sit, to rest. The walls of a house give you a shelter, in which to dwell.

The doing: the praying, the serving, the giving – they are all to enable us to be. To be in God; to be with God; to be most fully ourselves. Which are all the same thing.

Which brings us to giving. Giving is different from fundraising. I rather rashly volunteered to do this giving sermon because I work in my day job in a charity, in fundraising. “Fund raising”, the raising of funds, is of course focused on the end result – funds getting raised. But giving is about simply the act of giving.

To give is simply to choose generosity, sacrifice; to release one’s money or resources to God. To choose a state of open-handedness, a state expressed in the act of putting money in a plate, or a direct debit, or a fund. The act of giving, like all actions, incarnates or brings into being that attitude. Open-handedness without actual giving is not really open-handedness at all; the act is what makes it real. 3m

That’s why all Jesus’ teaching about giving is not about the end result – the funds raised, the roof mended, the appeal target reached – but about the simple act of releasing. The attitude of the heart. The widow’s mite, the rich young man told to give away all he has to the poor.

Giving is about the heart – it is about letting your heart choose openness, but also about choosing not to invest ourselves in material hopes or securities. It is about releasing what we have to God. So that our hearts may be free of the love of money. Which will never fulfil or enlarge us. Giving is about turning from what we might have, or hope to have, and turning instead to who we can be.

Which is why giving can be rewarding and fulfilling and life-giving, and joyful, in a way that spending or owning can never be.

As Oscar Romero wrote, “Aspire not to have more, but to be more”.

In fact we began Lent with Jesus teaching us about fasting and giving: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth”, we read on Ash Wednesday, “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”, Jesus says. It is the attitude of the heart, with which God is truly concerned.

And we draw to the end of Lent with a reading that tells us that story more fully than anything else could. The Passion of Christ. The pouring out of himself. When we wonder, how should we give? We can look to Jesus. He gave himself, out of the most full and perfect love.

It’s a hard story to hear. Mother Theresa said once, “love til it hurts”. Giving can be joyful, but it can also be painful. Which is why we need it to be a practice, something we commit to, not just something we do when we can, or for the feel-good factor. It can hurt a bit to give away when we feel we don’t have enough – or as much as we hoped – but it brings freedom. It gives us a new life.

Turning from the worries and cares that money or material things give us, and turning instead to who we can be, in God. Turning from having, or not having, to being. Not being defined by what we have or don’t have. Being defined by who we are in God.

What does that mean in practice? Well, to give, give intentionally. Not just what we have spare or in your pocket on a Sunday. A challenge might be to consider our giving as carefully perhaps as we consider spending. The principle in the Old Testament is of giving the first fruits to God – not the left overs. Giving proportionally from what we have and what we need.

And give regularly. A good rule of thumb might be to give as often as money comes into your possession – for many people that means giving monthly; for others it means considering what comes in from week to week.

What or whom to give to? Give to God, wherever God is.

Of course, we rightly give to what we are dedicated to, what you believe in, and that’s great – what we are drawn to, in our truest and best self, is one of the ways God leads us. But throughout the bible and church teaching, we are urged to consider the forgotten, too – not just the church or cause that you love and love to support, but those with less, those whose voices our society neglects, and indeed our world itself, our planet. Consider the neglected, and Jesus will be there. Let’s give to God, wherever God is to be found.

Jesus says in the midst of the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday, ‘unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed’. He’s talking about his passion and death, but he’s also talking about how we can live. “Whoever loses his or her life for my sake, will find it”.

This is what Lent is truly about. It’s the heart of Lent. Letting go, giving up, laying down. In order to be. And that’s what giving is about too.

So as we enter Holy Week, and journey with Jesus through his Passion, his suffering, his great love for us poured out on the Cross – let’s think of how we can give; We’re coming to the end of Lent as we look ahead to Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Perhaps for Lent you gave something up – or you took something up – or perhaps Lent felt like one thing too many this year, and adding a new habit or a self-denial was a bridge too far. Perhaps you started something but gave up.

Well, luckily, seeing through a self-discipline for forty days – isn’t really what Lent’s about.

We’ve been looking at our six practices for a Rule of Life this Lent too – praying, reading, learning; and telling, serving, and today, giving. And because they are all verbs, all practices, things to do, you might be forgiven for thinking the Rule of Life – and indeed, Christian faith – are about doing. 1m

But, luckily: doing, – doing the right thing, and not doing the wrong things, – are not in fact, what Christianity, or a Rule of Life, are about, either.

My Dad used to say, ‘Being comes before doing’.

What’s the point of a Rule of Life, of the practices of faith, then? The Rule of Life is like the legs of a stool, or the walls of a house. The legs of a stool give you a place to sit, to rest. The walls of a house give you a shelter, in which to dwell.

The doing: the praying, the serving, the giving – they are all to enable us to be. To be in God; to be with God; to be most fully ourselves. Which are all the same thing.

Which brings us to giving. Giving is different from fundraising. I rather rashly volunteered to do this giving sermon because I work in my day job in a charity, in fundraising. “Fund raising”, the raising of funds, is of course focused on the end result – funds getting raised. But giving is about simply the act of giving.

To give is simply to choose generosity, sacrifice; to release one’s money or resources to God. To choose a state of open-handedness, a state expressed in the act of putting money in a plate, or a direct debit, or a fund. The act of giving, like all actions, incarnates or brings into being that attitude. Open-handedness without actual giving is not really open-handedness at all; the act is what makes it real. 3m

That’s why all Jesus’ teaching about giving is not about the end result – the funds raised, the roof mended, the appeal target reached – but about the simple act of releasing. The attitude of the heart. The widow’s mite, the rich young man told to give away all he has to the poor.

Giving is about the heart – it is about letting your heart choose openness, but also about choosing not to invest ourselves in material hopes or securities. It is about releasing what we have to God. So that our hearts may be free of the love of money. Which will never fulfil or enlarge us. Giving is about turning from what we might have, or hope to have, and turning instead to who we can be.

Which is why giving can be rewarding and fulfilling and life-giving, and joyful, in a way that spending or owning can never be.

As Oscar Romero wrote, “Aspire not to have more, but to be more”.

In fact we began Lent with Jesus teaching us about fasting and giving: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth”, we read on Ash Wednesday, “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”, Jesus says. It is the attitude of the heart, with which God is truly concerned.

And we draw to the end of Lent with a reading that tells us that story more fully than anything else could. The Passion of Christ. The pouring out of himself. When we wonder, how should we give? We can look to Jesus. He gave himself, out of the most full and perfect love.

It’s a hard story to hear. Mother Theresa said once, “love til it hurts”. Giving can be joyful, but it can also be painful. Which is why we need it to be a practice, something we commit to, not just something we do when we can, or for the feel-good factor. It can hurt a bit to give away when we feel we don’t have enough – or as much as we hoped – but it brings freedom. It gives us a new life.

Turning from the worries and cares that money or material things give us, and turning instead to who we can be, in God. Turning from having, or not having, to being. Not being defined by what we have or don’t have. Being defined by who we are in God.

What does that mean in practice? Well, to give, give intentionally. Not just what we have spare or in your pocket on a Sunday. A challenge might be to consider our giving as carefully perhaps as we consider spending. The principle in the Old Testament is of giving the first fruits to God – not the left overs. Giving proportionally from what we have and what we need.

And give regularly. A good rule of thumb might be to give as often as money comes into your possession – for many people that means giving monthly; for others it means considering what comes in from week to week.

What or whom to give to? Give to God, wherever God is.

Of course, we rightly give to what we are dedicated to, what you believe in, and that’s great – what we are drawn to, in our truest and best self, is one of the ways God leads us. But throughout the bible and church teaching, we are urged to consider the forgotten, too – not just the church or cause that you love and love to support, but those with less, those whose voices our society neglects, and indeed our world itself, our planet. Consider the neglected, and Jesus will be there. Let’s give to God, wherever God is to be found.

Jesus says in the midst of the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday, ‘unless a seed falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed’. He’s talking about his passion and death, but he’s also talking about how we can live. “Whoever loses his or her life for my sake, will find it”.

This is what Lent is truly about. It’s the heart of Lent. Letting go, giving up, laying down. In order to be. And that’s what giving is about too.

So as we enter Holy Week, and journey with Jesus through his Passion, his suffering, his great love for us poured out on the Cross – let’s think of how we can give; now and in the year ahead; because we are a people who look ahead to the Resurrection – the hope, the new life, that comes in laying down and letting go.

As Lent draws to its end, and we gather our six Rule of Life practices together, let’s set our faces to be, through the doing of them; to be who God has called and enabled and made us to be.

Amen. and in the year ahead; because we are a people who look ahead to the Resurrection – the hope, the new life, that comes in laying down and letting go.

As Lent draws to its end, and we gather our six Rule of Life practices together, let’s set our faces to be, through the doing of them; to be who God has called and enabled and made us to be.

Amen.

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