Saturday, August 18, 2012

Better To Give

A really great opportunity has been presented to me through my church this past week. Last Monday night after service, everyone who wished to participate was asked to pick up a blue backpack. Inside the backpack was a list of school supplies that we would be responsible for purchasing and bringing back along with the bag this coming Monday. The Lord has been putting it on my heart lately to really dedicate my finances to Him and while I can say that these last few months have provided great opportunities for me to do so, I know that I could be doing a lot more.

All of this coincides with a really great discussion I had with C last night on tithing, which put into perspective a few things about money. Firstly, the only reason that I have any money is because God has opened the door for my employment (something that is not easy to obtain these days). Secondly, at least ten percent of that money is His. It is not even mine to spend. I think that because of familial and personal circumstances, I've seen and experienced financial troubles that have led me to believe giving to the church either didn't matter or was just not a viable option. Now (even though I'm still struggling), I'm starting to see that not giving to the church is not an option. There are literally countless reasons for why this is, but I'll briefly speak to the few that matter most to me in the present. For starters, God says that if we test Him in this (tithing), He will reward us. Now, believe me, it feels incredibly foreign to me to want to "test God", but the scripture literally says to do just that (Malachi 3:8-10). Further, while I may be struggling right now financially, if there is anything that I learned from working in finance last year, it's that you have to prioritize and set yourself up for success. Often times, people won't set up retirement accounts or purchase life insurance because they don't think that they can afford these things. Honestly, people can't afford not to invest in those things. When we look hard enough and actually track our spending, it's amazing how much money we can find to give up.

To illustrate this point, I'll throw myself under the bus for a second.

One Spring during college, I couldn't afford to get some routine repairs done on my car because I was "broke". I did, however, somehow manage to scrape up enough money for airfare, a hotel, and extra spending money for a week in Florida for Spring Break. Sound like somebody got their wants and needs a little mixed up? Absolutely. This was a good lesson for me, though (assuming I don't continue to make the same mistake year after year). The point is, I pay monthly bills, I pay taxes, I pay down student loans, I spend money on incidentals and a handful of other miscellaneous expenses. Am I rolling in dough? Heck no, but that doesn't excuse me from giving to the one category not mentioned above that actually promises to reward me for giving to it in the first place. Also, assuming my money is going to a worthy cause, it is pretty safe to say that it is not going to say, happy hours or sundresses. And while those things are great (debatable), they most definitely fall in the want category.

Okay, time to bring it full circle. So today I woke up, ate breakfast, went to the gym to meet with my personal trainer (another monthly expense in the want category), and ran. During my run, I successfully spilled half of my water bottle on my phone (yay!). I left the gym promptly to run to the grocery store to buy some white rice to stick my phone in to dry it out, and while I was in my car about to head home, I looked down at the seat next to me and noticed the little blue backpack. Instead of continuing on to my house, I decided to turn left at the last minute and head to Target to get some school supplies. May I just stop right here and say this: Mom, thank you so much for patiently taking me year after year to get school supplies. I think I am starting to understand why this trip may not have always been the most enjoyable for you. School supplies are a nightmare. Especially when the list you have specifies things like quantity and the store you are at doesn't supply colored pencils in 24 packs and everything else on the list is really picked over. At this point, it is safe to say that I am starving and a little tired. I leave the store with about half of the things on the list and decide I'm going to finish it off tomorrow. While I was driving, though, and reflecting on how awesome it is that my church is enabling us to contribute to some child's school year, I am suddenly so joy-filled and inspired to keep going until I finish off the list. I end up driving to three different stores in total (who knew they don't sell pencil boxes anymore?!) and just finished assembling all of the supplies in the backpack, ready to be dropped back off on Monday evening.

There are so many times when going to the store is a chore. There are even more times when going to the store results in buyer's remorse. Today was neither. Today was such a blessing and just another way that God is gently reminding me of what my priorities should be and how it truly is better to give than to receive. It really is not about us. I think that the sooner we realize that, the sooner we will realize the source of true and life-changing joy and happiness. If purchasing school supplies is this rewarding, can you imagine what it must feel like to get to spend a few months or a year in an inner city or abroad giving to those in need? I cannot wait for the opportunity to do so. For now, though, I'll be praying and on the lookout for opportunities to give and to serve in my own backyard. While not as glamorous as traveling to the other side of the world, I think every city could benefit from a little neighbor to neighbor TLC :)

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