Why should I make an act of giving to another a priority in my life?

Undeniably a lot of us live busy lives. There are bills to pay, children to raise (if that’s the place you’re at in life), obligations to attend to. It can seem there isn’t enough time in the day for everything to get done, so its easy to be guarded with our time because when we live such busy, harried lives, it seems like our most precious resource. And it is. We have time in limited supply and we can’t really earn more of it, so we need to be wise in the way we spend it.

Considering the scarcity of our time, it’s no wonder why we resist new demands on it. An examination of your life, however, probably shows that you make time for the things that are important to you. What we do with our limited time, then, reflects the priorities we have. Just as some people say, “show me your cheque book, and I’ll tell you what’s important to you”, we could say the same for your day-planner.

In his farewell address to the leaders of the church in Ephesis, Paul gives us a reason to look differently at volunteering.

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” (Acts 20:35 NIV)

Our working on behalf of the poor is a net benefit to me. Now, I don’t mean to say that my motivations should be based on self-interest, but Paul, quoting Jesus, is trying to enlighten our self-interest, to put it in prospective by telling us that, in the long run, the effort we expend on behalf of others will be worth it to us.

We’ve seen this in the life of volunteers at Nightlight. People from local churches have come to volunteer because they’ve felt serving people on the margins is something they ought to do. What they often note after a time is that while they came to serve others, they find that the giving in the relationship is often two ways. In serving others they find they form deep and meaningful friendships with the people they’ve come to serve. These relationships become a greater reward than the effort put in to serving others. In other words, people enrich themselves by pouring out.

This is, of course, keeping with the thrust of God’s mission revealed in scripture. God blesses Abraham so that he can be a blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:3). The blessing we receive is not meant to be poured into us, but channeled through us. God’s desire is always that his favour be spread around because he loves all people with the same love. He doesn’t intend for us to be left in the lurch. True, if I give of my time, I won’t have the same amount of time left over, but an act of obedience is an occasion for God to bless us further.

Jesus shows us this very fact in the parable of the talents. When a servant returns who has been faithful by wisely using the resources with which his master entrusted him, the master congratulates him, entrusts him with more and invites him to share in his happiness

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ ” (Matt 25:21 NIV)

The question is then, do we take Jesus at his word?

So the next time you’re given  an opportunity to volunteer to help the poor, whatever kind of poverty that is,  seriously consider Jesus’ words that it is more blessed to give than receive. By passing up the opportunity in order to do things that are more important, or that seem more necessary, you may be impoverishing yourself.