Fearless giving

Years ago, when our three children were quite small, my husband and I decided to purchase a house just down the street from where we were living. Our intention was to put a small amount of money into fixing it up, and then quickly place it back on the market (or in real estate terms, flip it). We conservatively determined the amount we expected to net from the sale of the house, and we decided this was going to be our nest egg for our children’s college edu­cation. 

Around the time we purchased this house, our neighbor’s landlord told her that she needed to move out of her home. This neighbor was a friend of ours, and her kids were our kids’ playmates. She really wanted to continue raising her family on the island where we lived, and she preferred to stay in the same neighborhood. 

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After we closed on the house, it occurred to us that this friend would be the perfect buyer. We agreed to let her know about the house before we put it back on the market, even though at this point we hadn’t begun any of the repair work. After we let her know an approximate selling price, she politely informed us that she would not be able to afford it. We decided to ask her what she could afford, and the figure she gave us happened to be the same amount we had originally paid for the house.

So now we were faced with a dilemma. How could we in good conscience deprive this friend of a house that seemed perfect for her small family? And how could we abandon what seemed like a wise financial plan for us? 

As I prayed using ideas from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, I thought a lot about the concept of giving. It dawned on me that giving is really a God-ordained activity. I was inspired by the familiar Bible story of the loaves and the fishes. To human sense, it would seem beyond ridiculous to try to share a few loaves of bread and fishes with a multitude of hungry people, numbering in the thousands. We might even panic at the thought of feeding a few extras who show up at our dinner table! However, Christ Jesus didn’t hesitate to go forward with his plan to feed everyone, as related in John 6:1–13

What’s so striking about this event is that Jesus had prepared the crowd to receive the meal even before there was physical evidence of enough food to go around. This certainly conveys his absolute trust in God’s provision. 

If we pray with sincerity, humility, a desire to bless, and a heart that recognizes God’s love and care for all, then it becomes easy to give. 

We also read in this account that Jesus gave thanks before he distributed the food. To me, this indicates that Jesus recognized God, divine Love, as the source of supply, and that he knew Love was more than able to meet the need. Jesus had seen Love in action many times before. He’d preached to others about expressing the qualities of Love (see Matthew 5), and he’d healed the sick and sinning through his understanding of it. Of course, everyone was fed, and after they were filled there remained twelve baskets of leftovers. 

Eddy comments on this event in Science and Health: “In the scientific relation of God to man, we find that whatever blesses one blesses all, as Jesus showed with the loaves and the fishes,—Spirit, not matter, being the source of supply” (p. 206). This idea of mutual blessing became a source of comfort to my husband and me. It was really the answer to the suggestion that one family was going to be hurt—either ours or our friend’s. We stayed with this idea: “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters’ ” (Science and Health, p. 13). There was a spiritual solution that would provide everyone involved with exactly what they needed.

There’s a statement in the New Testament from Paul to the church in Corinth: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7). God gives to us all that He is by expressing His infinite goodness in us, and when we let this divine power be freely expressed, we are letting God shine right through us. Giving cheerfully through spiritual love is a Godlike activity, and therefore we can trust it to bless, comfort, and bring joy.

I’m not implying that we should give things away haphazardly or without thought. But if we pray with sincerity, humility, a desire to bless, and a heart that recognizes God’s love and care for all, then it becomes easy to give. We also lose the fear of negative consequences. 

My husband and I knew that being loving toward our neighbor was the right thing to do, even though we had no earthly idea how that was going to bless us in practical terms. So we let that worry go and replaced it with trust. We decided to expect good—but not outline how that good might be manifested. I began to see that we weren’t simply helping give someone a home, but rather we were consciously giving our trust to God, our love to our neighbor, and our faith to the law of abundant goodness. We couldn’t be harmed by making these choices.

We sold the house to this friend for the same price at which it was purchased. She was also able to pay all the closing costs, so we didn’t lose any money. Her family moved in, she raised her kids there, and eventually she was able to build a second floor, which gave her kids the space they needed as they grew up. Our friend still lives in that house, even though her kids have grown and moved on. She has recently begun the study of Science and Health, has read many of The Christian Science Journals and Sentinels I’ve shared with her, and regularly attends services at our local branch Church of Christ, Scientist.

Another significant blessing came from this experience. Several weeks after we closed on the house with our friend, my husband and I received an unexpected check in the mail from a distant relative, who wanted to give us a gift toward our kids’ college education. This relative knew nothing about the purchase or sale of this house, and the amount given was almost the exact amount we had originally figured we could make from selling the house.

Giving unselfishly and cheerfully never deprives us of anything—whether we’re giving money, clothing, supplies, our assistance, or our prayers. It’s a spiritually empowering and holy activity, and its only outcome is blessing.

Lifted out of grief
December 29, 2014

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