With apologies to Ani DiFranco…
Sometimes, giving really does make me happy. I’m thrilled when people give to charity in my name. I give blood whenever my schedule and hemoglobin levels allow. I love hand-knitting baby blankets.
And that’s not bad. I should love giving. Freely giving is a Godlike instinct. God showers gifts on us – the evil and the good nourished equally by rain and sunlight. God loves to give good gifts to those who ask.
And yet, sometimes I see all too clearly that I don’t take joy in the giving itself. I love the thought of being known as a giver. I want that sticker that says, Be nice to me. I gave blood today. I save thank you cards forever. I want people to find them when I die and get all misty about my great personality. I’m only sort of joking.
But Jesus doesn’t want me to give for the sake of brownie points. When people look good for the crowds, he says, they have already received their reward. He says anyone can do good to someone who loves them for it, just like it’s easy to loan your money to someone you know will pay you back. To give when you know it will be totally unrewarded, even misunderstood? That’s much more like God, whose love never fails even in our worst moments.
I’m not going to stop giving blood or knitting baby gifts. But let’s face it: that’s the easy stuff. The hard stuff is choosing not to get offended when someone speaks to me in the same rude tone they have used every day since I’ve known them. Laboring away in my tiny gray cubicle to brighten the lives of cranky strangers I’ll never speak to again. Listening generously to people talk about problems I’d feel lucky to have.
This is when I start to space out. There is no photo op, no thank you card. There are no memories to be made. This is when my life starts to feel gray and useless and not precious to God. This is when I pay lip service to serving, but really I am checking my email. This is when I pretend to listen, but I’m really thinking about what I wish I was doing instead.
This is when I forget God is present, that these moments are sacred too. This is when I forget I’m supposed to be loving and giving. I feel like because I’m not getting kudos, I have implicit permission to phone it in.
So I need to pray for joy in giving, just for giving’s sake, not because anyone knows or compliments me or because I get to feel good about myself. I can choose to give like God gives: just because. Just because it’s love’s nature to give. Just because I want to.