As I type this morning, a cool breeze dances through an open window, and a cerulean sky beckons me outdoors. Beautiful days like this fill my soul with peace and gratitude and make me excited for Thanksgiving which we will celebrate very soon.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. My heart holds wonderful memories of family gatherings, enough food for a small country, and playing hide-and-seek with cousins. Though for many of us the holidays stir good memories and excitement about gathering with friends and family, the Lord nudged me today with the reminder of those in need, those grieving during Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the many sitting alone at home.
Blessed to be a Blessing like Abraham
In our culture, though many of us teach our children about the importance of giving to others, I find the holidays to be a time when we are tempted to focus on ourselves and our families. That’s not a bad thing, our families are blessings, but I want to encourage us in this season of Thanks((giving)), to spend these next 30 days of November focused on blessing others and helping our family do the same. We are blessed to be a blessing just as God told Abraham.
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
Genesis 12:2 NIV
Abraham could not imagine how his life would one day bless generations to come. He could not see that far into the future, but it was His trust in God that became the model for our own faith.
Abraham lived a generous life. His great trust in God helped him live with such generosity and grace. Abraham gave Lot the first choice of land (Genesis 13), petitioned for the salvation of Sodom and Gomorrah, and prepared a meal for the three visitors (Genesis 18). All of these actions reveal his focus on the needs of others.
Giving Like Esther Did with Your Small Group
Many biblical characters lived generously. One was Esther. At the end of Esther’s story, she and Mordecai established the festival of Purim to be celebrated annually to remember God’s salvation. That celebration included giving gifts to the poor.
Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.
Esther 9: 20-22
This isn’t the season for Purim, but it’s on my mind because I had a Purim party with my small group who had just finished Radiant Influence, my Bible study on Esther. Part of our celebration included bringing gifts for someone in need. We chose a young girl in a third world country who one of our members has been supporting for a few years. It felt so good to give, and our combined gift was such a blessing. How many fellowships do we attend that only focus on ourselves? Next time you host a small group, adopt family or special need your group can serve together.
A Generous Eye
Jesus taught about generosity. One scripture is often misunderstood and seems out of context because it contains a Hebrew saying (an idiom) we do not use. Though the words have been translated correctly, the meaning has been lost through time and culture.
In Matthew 6, Jesus teaches:
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
“Healthy” in this context implies generosity while “unhealthy” implies being stingy. (Look it up on Biblegateway!) These verses are sandwiched between scripture on giving to the needy, storing up treasures in heaven, and serving God rather than money. I’ll never forget how excited I was when I realized the connection between those verses. I know how dark stinginess feels. I’ve experienced it, but I also know the joyful light of giving generously. It feels so good.
Bible Reading Plan on Giving
Are you ready to soak for 30 days in scripture encouraging you to give? Read each verse with a journal beside you. (Here’s one I made.) Copy the words, and then write down what comes to your mind. Write a prayer about applying that verse for the day. The Lord may give you an idea. If He does, write it down. Some of these verses I found over on Money Wise Steward. She’s about living abundantly too.
Teaching Our Children and Grandchildren about Giving
Our kids and grandkids learn so much from our actions. The way we give (or don’t) to others will be passed down through the generations just like Abraham and Esther. I know, however, how much it helps to have some tangible ideas on how to teach our kids this concept and pass down generous hearts. Parents.com has a great article with six ideas to help focus kids on giving. My favorite is their Advent Calendar:
Advent Calendar: Random Acts of Kindness
Instead of getting a tiny gift in each calendar date pocket, write a random act of kindness activity that you can do together as a family. Some examples are: volunteer in your local food pantry or soup kitchen, make cookies for your neighbors, visit a local senior center, draw a picture for an elderly neighbor, and write letters to deployed soldiers.
It is Better to Give than Receive
As Paul prepared to journey to Jerusalem, he spoke these farewell words to the elders of Ephesus:
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Acts 20: 32-35
The word “blessed” has been translated from makarios. This words means happy or fully-satisfied. Our broken, fallen world is filled with stingy, unhappy people trying to fill the hole in their hearts with things that eventually get old and break. We also fill our lives with or people who simply can not fill us because they too are in need of filling.
Only God and His instruction for living can fully satisfy us and give us joy. So, this holiday season whether your blessings are running over, or you feel like you need someone to give to you, try this 30 day challenge: Soak everyday for at least 5 minutes in the scriptures on giving and intentionally find someone to give to each day. Remember, it doesn’t have to cost money. What random act of kindness can you give?