When Gary and I had our first Lazarus at the Gate meeting, with its tagline of “simplicity for the sake of generosity in community”, one of the most important steps we needed to take was to focus on small steps. If I cut my own hair for the next 50 years of my life, I will save at least $10 per month, or $120 year, or $6000 over the next 50 years! A bunch of small steps could add up quickly.
Those small steps were internal as well as external. When we heard how much each person made, rather than give in to feelings of jealousy, pride, shame, or fear, we cheered for each other as each of us took a small or big challenge towards simplifying our lives in order to give more generously. The larger goal of giving to the poor was more important than my petty feelings – feelings which were almost always tied up in my sinful confusion that money measures my identity.
In other words, we decided to develop the spiritual gift of giving. Giving, like evangelism or bible teaching, is not only a command from Jesus but also a spiritual muscle we need to develop. Paul lists it as a gift in Romans 12:8. But where can you go to develop the gift of giving? Not seminaries: Seminaries train teaching, evangelism, pastoral, and leadership gifts, but not the gift of giving. Not Christian books and financial workshops: All of the ones that we knew about did not prioritize giving to the poor more and more, but simply rational money management. Not churches: Most churches only teach about tithing to the church, not giving to the poor, when it’s time to discuss the church’s annual budget. Not church small groups: Money is such a private matter in American culture(s) and other cultures that we have effectively removed our financial decisions from Christian accountability. We have hidden them in dark caves far from the light of day. All that is unacceptable.
So we started learning what it meant to bring out this delicate, judgmental, comparison-oriented, anxiety-ridden place in our hearts, before Jesus and before each other. We did it for the sake of giving more to the poor. It was well worth it. I think you’d find it to be true as well.