I recently asked my boys to choose five stuffed animals out of their boundless collections to give away. Five. That’s it.
One of my boys quickly chose seven, and the other struggled to find just one.
One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a lesson on generosity. Of course, this is best taught through example. But leading a life of generosity in today’s economy when budgets are tighter than ever can be tough.
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” 1 John 3:17-18
“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13
God doesn’t call us to be generous when our pockets are flush with cash. He simply asks us to give. Regardless.
It was that kind of generosity from a small boy with five barley loves and two small fish that fueled Jesus’ miraculous feeding of more than 5,000 people one afternoon. I have to wonder – certainly, out of all those people, he wasn’t the only one with food, was he? What was he thinking that made him come forward and give everything he had?
What would you do in that situation? Hide your food from others, secretly stealing a bite here and there, just thankful you had the foresight to bring some food along? Or, like the boy, would you give it all away?
On a much smaller scale, I had an experience like that recently. I share it here only with the hope it will encourage someone else.
A friend’s daughter was ill and they suspected she was having an allergic reaction to wheat. Since one of my children is on a gluten-free diet, I frequently bake bread for him. After talking with my friend on the phone, I thought, “I should just make her a loaf of bread.” For a brief second I thought about the expensive flour, but quickly followed that thought with “I have plenty to get me through the next few weeks, what am I fussing about!”
I baked the bread and took it over without another thought. Later that day, another friend whose husband works for a major food supplier called to offer me some samples of a new gluten-free nut bar.
When I arrived at her house, not only did she hand me a bag of bars, but also a huge box over-flowing with other product samples – including two boxes of gluten-free bread mix.
I was overwhelmed by God’s generosity. It was such a small thing, but it showed me the truth of this verse:
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
When I consider the boy who gave his lunch without another thought, the blessing principle described in Luke leaps off the page. After everyone had eaten, John tells us the disciples gathered up the leftovers, and there was enough to fill twelve baskets.
Can you imagine how the boy must have felt? But it gets better. His outrageous generosity was recorded not once, but three times in the Bible (in Mark, Luke and John)!
He’d given what little he had, and it made all the difference. How I desire for my children to experience such merciful, unselfish giving and the blessing that follows. As their mother, I pray I can be a worthy model of such generosity for them.
The next time I call for donations, I won’t hold my breath that my boys will offer up their entire stuffed animal collections, but I do know they will be blessed for whatever they give with cheerful and unselfish hearts.
Dear Father, I’m not perfectly generous – but I’m learning. Give me eyes to see the needs around me, a heart to give out of what I have, and the ability to see past my own self-imposed limitations and selfishness. I pray that my children will quietly observe and imitate such actions that demonstrate your love. Amen.
Taking it deeper:
Put yourself in the middle of that crowd on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee. You have a sandwich or an apple tucked in your bag. What would you do? Do you see the impossibilities? Or the possibilities of a Savior who is not bound by our laws of math? Do you keep your food? And if you do, will it satisfy you?