A spiritual model for giving

Our regional newspaper   runs a series from Thanksgiving to Christmas that identifies a hundred needy families in our metropolitan area. Each day, a few different stories are shared and each family’s need described. The result is a generous outpouring of donations from the community that helps alleviate the poverty and hardship that many families face.

Such efforts can sometimes feel like a drop in the bucket, though, in the face of the ongoing needs of so many for food and other basic resources. How do we begin to meet the need—and how can we best help? Here’s where prayer can play a major role.

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Jesus prompted his disciples to be generous in their ministry when he told them, “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8). Put simply, prayer has a multiplier effect. It begins with gratitude for God, Love, the infinite source of good, which is universally and abundantly available to all. God imparts to humanity an endless stream of tangible, blessing ideas, right where each one of us is. (Here, “us” doesn’t imply a “giver” praying for “the needy.” Instead, it refers to each child of God, every one conscious of His wholeness.) Prayer opens us up to this goodness, to qualities such as courage, patience, receptivity, unselfishness, creativity, and fearlessness, which enable us to take bold steps in confronting need and lack. These spiritual resources can’t be limited: We naturally recognize that they are available for everyone. Through the study of Christian Science, I’m gaining an understanding that prayer leads to truly effective giving.

The spiritual qualities that God freely bestows on us are gifts we joyously share. What would it cost me to love freely, patiently, and tenderly? Could I deplete my reserves by praying for my neighbors near and far? I may not have an overflowing bank account, but I can make demands on my spiritual inheritance and live overflowing love. The desire to “spend” our spiritual riches is the natural outcome of our unselfish ambition to follow the example of Christ Jesus.

Spiritual resources can't be limited: We naturally recognize that they are available for everyone.

This prayerful approach to giving leads to practical and inspired means of donating to and serving our neighbor. As we recognize the constant presence of God’s direction, our thoughts and actions are led into new channels that we might not have seen before. We might be led to volunteer our time, to reach out in a creative way to a family in need, or to perceive and fill a need in our community. Outward-facing thinking leads to outward giving, and we find it natural to share our own bounty in unselfish ways. Our love for God will lead each one of us, and find its perfect place for expression and fulfillment.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote in Science and Health, “This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; . . .” (p. 304). Our neighbors’ needs may seem so great that it is challenging to fathom how they can be alleviated. But our prayers deprive fear, hopelessness, sorrow, and emptiness from finding a home in thought. There is no room for them. Right where there appears to be a need, there Love unfailingly blesses, comforts, heals, and inspires each one of us to recognize true abundance.

Prayer knows no boundaries. So whether the need is down the street or across the globe, we can be assured of fresh, new meaningful ways to actively give. I’m encouraged by indications that even in tough economic conditions, public unselfishness is on the rise. For example, the National Philanthropic Trust reports that individual contributions account for 75 percent of total giving, and that total giving increased by 3.8 percent from 2009 to 2010. It appears that despite the economic outlook, it is natural to share and support your neighbor.

Mrs. Eddy clearly laid out the divine order that leaves no one out: “. . . Christian Science comes to reveal man as God’s image, His idea, coexistent with Him—God giving all and man having all that God gives” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 5). So go ahead—prayer will lead your generous love to find a level of giving that knows no limitations.

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In the Christian Science Bible Lesson
Our guiding light
December 19, 2011
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