The Spiritual Discipline of Giving

A few weeks ago, I stopped by the children’s Sunday School class before Sunday worship.  After a few minutes, Mason and his brother Fletcher showed up.  Little Mason was clutching a dollar bill.  Being a little kid, he was running around the room doing various things, but he never let go of that dollar.

In chatting with Mason’s teacher, Spiritual Formation Director Deb Murphy, I knew where that dollar was going to go.  In the classroom sits a shoebox wrapped in blue construction paper.  It’s the blessing box, and all of the children who attend place money in that box.  After a certain amount of time, Deb gathers the children and they talk about what to do with the money.  In the past they have given money to the Heifer Project to buy animals for people around the world.

Later this year, these kids will work to donate sunglasses to kids at Plaster House, a children’s rehabilitation hospital in Tanzania.

As I reviewed all of this, I realized that Deb was teaching these kids a spiritual discipline, the discipline of  giving.

Being a Christian is not simply about what we believe, but it is also about how we live in light of what we believe.  In a recent article in the evangelical magazine Christianity Today, writer Keri Wyatt Kent notes that Jesus gave everything on the cross.  To say we love, but then do nothing to show that loves, really puts our love in question.  Kent quotes another evangelical, writer and social justice activist Shane Claireborne who had this to say about our beliefs and out actions:

“If you ask most people what Christians believe, they can tell you, ‘Christians believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that Jesus rose from the dead.’ But if you ask the average person how Christians live, they are struck silent. We have not shown the world another way of doing life. Christians pretty much live like everybody else, they just sprinkle in a little Jesus along the way.”

Giving is a way of showing people how much we love God.  Those kids in Sunday School are learning that being a follower of Jesus is not just about believing certain thing, but it is also about how we live our lives, how we help our fellow sisters and brothers.  Giving also reminds us of the love that God showed us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  When we give, we are reminded of God’s love for us.

I think about what First Chirstian has done over the last few months.  We made 10 welcome baskets for the Currie Avenue Partnership.  We made 19 backpacks for Central Lutheran’s Restoration Center.  We have gone on a regular basis to Feed My Starving Children to help hungry children around the world.  I’ve see the Handcrafters make prayer shawls. What I hope you all realize is that this is a way to express our love for God.  This isn’t simply about doing good deeds or being a good person, but about realizing what God has done in our lives and expressing our thanks in our holy work helping our sisters and brothers.

I usually end this column with the words, “Go and be church.”  Being church means living our lives as followers of Jesus.  Little Mason is learning what it means to follow Jesus and I hope all of us more “mature kids” are learning as well.

Go and be church.

Dennis Sanders

Associate Pastor for Mission and Diversity

First Christian Church, Minneapolis

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