Written on the Heart

Posted on 16 Oct 2016, Pastor: Walt McCanless

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: Jeremiah 31:27-34; Psalm 119:97-104; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5; Luke 18:1-8



I’ve read that the dictionary has 52 different definitions of the word “giving!” Indeed, it’s a topic with many aspects.

Last week Walt spoke about “Giving from Gratitude.”

This morning we will be focusing on GIVING FROM THE HEART.

I think some people associate that phrase with a “bleeding heart” type of giving that is purely emotional and maybe not the best response to a need.

Most of us have been approached by a beggar when our vehicle is stopped at an intersection. We encounter a struggle between our Christian calling to help those in need and our knowledge that this individual most likely will not use any cash received for food. Donating to Loaves & Fishes might be the wiser response.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:10 Paul tells us we have no obligation to professional beggars.

“If anyone will not work, neither let him eat.”

So, there is giving from the heart and also giving from the head.

If we give from the head, we learn as much as we can about the need in order to make good decisions. We check out the various organizations to determine what percentage of their donations goes directly to the need. We look for return on investment and want to promote measurable improvement in a situation such as hunger, homelessness, illiteracy, or disease.

Until I retired, this was pretty much my way of giving. I simply didn’t have the time or opportunity to directly connect with those in need.

Giving from the heart may be a more spontaneous response to an imminent need or simply giving to an individual or cause we care about without attaching strings or checking out all of the statistics.  Personally experiencing the positive impact we make on one or more individuals can be very rewarding.

The challenge sometimes is distinguishing real needs from wants.

If time permits, it’s a good idea to try to balance the emotional response with some careful thought.

As we prepare to welcome another 12 homeless women from the Salvation Army Center of Hope, this is our goal.

It will require getting to know each individual as well as we can by listening well rather than asking questions. This is how we gain their trust and identify and prioritize their critical needs.

But whether we are giving from our hearts, heads, or both, we realize that we are merely giving what already belongs to God back to God.  A couple of years ago I was blessed to attend a Crown Ministries class taught by Jay Witherspoon and Jim Scarlett.  It reinforced that we are simply stewards of what we are temporarily holding for God, and we are called to be good stewards.

In II Corinthians  9:7  we are told:

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

I have come to learn that what I “decide in my heart” involves “checking it out” with God.  And the “cheerful” part is true!

A couple of years ago when I was moving and down-sizing, I had the opportunity and the time to pass on much of my “stuff” to others. It was fun to figure out who would be delighted with what.

Giving is always more about the giver than the receiver. Think about the holiday season. How much joy and happiness do you experience when giving gifts and sharing your time and a meal with others in your home?

The fun can go even deeper if the gift is given anonymously.

Matthew 6: 3-4

But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

 I found a commentary on this that clarifies this scripture for me:

The right hand was considered the primary hand of action and during the course of a day it would do many things that would not involve the left hand. The phrase simply means that giving should be something so normal, without special effort or show, so that the left hand would not even be aware of what the right hand was doing. No consideration is given to what other men may think, only for what would bring glory to God.

 I enjoy the stories about people who arrange to pay for the meals of strangers in a restaurant without anyone knowing they did it, except the waitress.

Another thing that changed when I retired was that finally I was able to give significant time and talents to someone other than my employer.  My first opportunity came through the Church’s weekly Communique.                                                                                                                                   Jim Latimer had been requesting help with the work he was doing to preserve and maintain our historical records. I knew Jim through the Friendly Sunday school class where I accompanied my mother.

I promised him that I would become his understudy when I retired.

The week after I retired he called to set up my training.

Jim was so concerned that he would die before the work was done and that it would not be carried on.  He kept saying

 “I’m not going to live forever, you know!”

 Well, I was able to convince him that I could handle the historical preservation and cemetery databases, as well as the Pre-School financial reports. He turned it all over to me before we lost him.

I realize that giving him that peace of mind was the greatest gift I could have given him.

I’m so blessed to have been given these retirement years.

I agree with Winston Churchill, who said:

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”