I was a little surprised. No push-back from last week’s post on giving? Maybe it wasn’t as counter-intuitive to you as it has been to me.
In my reforming perfectionistic brain, there used to be 2 main rules for giving (my time, my money, my talents, my heart):
- You should never expect anything in return.
- You should never think about yourself. That’s selfish.
Those bad beliefs have been challenged in my life, and I invite you to process the challenge with me.
As I said last week, I believe we should expect to receive something in return, and I think we should absolutely think of ourselves when we give. As I said last week, we need new terms for thinking this way. From here on out, I’m going to switch to the vocabulary I used last week. When we give, we might not think of ourselves, but when we invest, we should be looking to how we’re affected.
Here’s why thinking of ourselves when we invest is crucial:
We should ruthlessly seek the good work being done within us. In the comments you left over the last few weeks, I’ve read a few with a longing to have your evident spiritual gift. For some of you, giving is like breathing. You can’t do life without it, and it’s part of your divinely given DNA. Giving is your gift.
I wish giving was my gift, but it’s not. Giving is a challenge for me. I lean toward selfishness and comfort, and I have to fight against those negative forces every time I do something for someone else. It’s an ugly part of me to share, but I’m just keepin’ it real.
When I give, I have to ask God to reveal my motives with His spotlight of righteousness. Am I investing with eternal purposes in mind, or do I have a hidden selfish motive? Am I doing truly investing for another, or do I have a secret motive for gain?
Investing always stretches me in the best possible way.
How can we know our motives are pure so that God’s purifying work can be accomplished in our investing? It must be done from love.
“If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” I Corinthians 13:3 (NIV)
Too often I’ve given so that I can boast. Sadly, that’s an investment with a negative return. I become more entrenched in self when I give this way, but love means that I gain God’s refining work in me. Let’s invest in love with an eye to gaining more of the fruits of the Spirit like thankfulness (Psalm 106:1) and to earning the blessing of more Jesus in us (Acts 20:35).
We should choose to be nothing, but we shouldn’t see ourselves as nothing. In Philippians 2:5-11, we read that Jesus chose a position of humility. He “made himself nothing”. He gives us a high example to follow in His humility. As I say in Breaking Up with Perfect,
“Rather than trading on His rightful position, Jesus intentionally gave up the perfection of heaven and chose a new position. ‘He made himself nothing.’ He isn’t nothing, but He chose to become nothing. Although He holds power and authority and is due respect, He elected to abdicate the rights and benefits of His high status by giving up the privileges He rightfully holds with His rank. Giving up perfection, He accepted an assignment in a flawed, broken, sinful world as a servant.” (p. 63)
It’s good to choose to become nothing because that reflects Christ-like humility. It’s not good to believe you are nothing.
Even though there were only the sounds of crickets chirping after my post last week, I’m sure that many of you have bought into the two bad beliefs I confessed at the start of this post. I heard it in the comments in the devotion and blog post I wrote several weeks ago, and some of your comments broke my heart in two.
I heard the echoes of what you believe about yourself in what you wrote. You. Don’t. Count. I want to set the record firmly in place on that belief. You, dearest one, do count. You matter.
There’s an equation that God the Father established in the Old Testament that Jesus the Son repeats in the New. When a man who wanted to test Jesus approached Him with a question, here’s how it went down:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 36-40)
There’s an equation here with three parts:
Love God + Love others + as yourself= Greatest commandments
You are not a zero sum in the equation. Jesus put you there.
Perfectionists often get this wrong. We’ve stripped ourselves out of the equation for so long that we become convinced that we don’t count–To Jesus. To anybody else.
I love how some genius used one of my all-time favorite words, JOY, to make an acronym.
Here’s the thing. Too many of us are only experiencing JO instead of JOY. See the problem? 🙂 Here are some questions to discern whether you’re leaving yourself out of the investment equation in a negative way:
- Is it wearing you out and leaving you empty instead of building you up and making you filled?
- Are others appreciative of what you give? I’m not talking about expecting gratefulness everyday or every time, but God cares about you. In asking you to invest, He’s not asking you to be prey for takers. That’s enabling, not investing. If you suspect that you’ve taken on the roll of enabling, put “you” back into the joy equation and see how the investing feels then.