By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
Most of us think giving is associated with gifts. Money is often tight in my home, so I must find other things to demonstrate giving besides material things. But I find myself doing so out of obligation and feeling angry and emotionally depleted as a result. Yet, we can give many things other than money. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, "Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."
We can choose to be cheerful givers, but it's important to know our limitations and not feel like we are ignoring our own needs. Here are six things you can give well without stretching yourself thin and still making time for your responsibilities:
Although everyone differs in how much money they have, everyone receives the same amount. We all have twenty-four hours in a day. It matters how we use that time. As with anything, we need to be good stewards of our time. Do we use most of our time focusing on ourselves, or do we use it to focus on others? One way we can give our time cheerfully is to tithe our time either in service to the local church body or within our local community or donate ten percent of our time a month to another worthy cause. By tithing our time, we know we are spending at least ten percent of it focused on others by impacting our community and having time to honor our commitments. We are giving but also leaving enough time for our obligations.
Although some of us have more resources than others, we all have extra items we can donate to a local charity. Start with clothing. Count how many tops, sweaters, and pants you own. More than likely, you have enough to give away. If you have more clothes than you have days in the week to wear them, it may be time to downsize. Giving away these clothing items to people in need is a great way to demonstrate a giving heart. This also goes for appliances, kitchen supplies, school supplies, and even extra furniture. It doesn't matter the donation amount but rather the intention of the heart with which we give it. Keep the most sentimental items for your collection that bring back good memories from your past. In the end, you'll have less clutter, and your items will be easier and more joyous to manage. This will also allow you more time for leisure and less for cleaning.
When we accept Christ as our savior, God gives us spiritual gifts. Our spiritual gifts are best used within a local church body, but we can also use those gifts outside of the body. For example, if we have the gift of encouragement, we can send cards or emails to people to brighten their day. We can also teach others more about our gifts for free. For example, I mentor women through a church program to learn how to compose sermons they can preach to their congregations. In this way, I invest my gift of teaching as I mentor others to hone their craft of preaching sermons. Not only do I bless others with the gift of preaching, but I am also blessed with joy when I see these women sharpen their skills by the end of the year. Because volunteering in a church, it is difficult to see the fruits of your labor. But investing in the right people will allow you to use your gifts and see some fruit in the end.
In the same way we have received spiritual gifts, we are uniquely wired with specific talents. For example, some can sing, others can dance, and others can create art. There are many things we can give to others. We can create art if someone is going through a difficult time. We can make food for others who are in need. We can make others feel welcome by inviting them to our home and getting to know them. If you are unsure of your talents, ask the Lord to reveal them to you. What talents have you been gifted and of which you can give to others?
By using your talents, you bless others but feel emotionally and spiritually charged; giving won't leave you feeling drained.
One of the best things we can do for others that's free is to pray for them. I don't pray nearly enough throughout the day for people. When I spend my quiet time with the Lord, I often focus on myself rather than others. I can easily carve out more time throughout my day to pray for others' needs for those who are sick, hurting, or experiencing a tough life season.
We don't even need to let people know we're praying for them. Instead, God hears our prayers and honors us for putting others first and going to Him to ask Him to meet their needs. Prayer is free and easily integrated into my schedule while still leaving room to accomplish my to-do list.
6. The Fruits of the Spirit
As Christians, we are called to display the fruits of the Spirit to everyone we meet. Galatians 5:23-24 outlines the gifts for us: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Paul continues, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other."
Read the newspaper or open your social media feed. The world needs more gentleness and kindness and less pride and envy. Discover ways you can display the fruits of the Spirit today. Is there someone who could use a kind word? Is there someone you find it difficult to get along with whom you can call a truce? Is there someone steeped in anger to which you can display joy and peace, too? When we choose to display these fruits of the Spirit, our character changes as a result. By giving these Christlike qualities to others, we demonstrate who Jesus is in our lives and allow ourselves to bless others. Relationships filled with strife or conflict can feel emotionally draining on us. By working to fix them through Christlike character, we enjoy better relationships and become more like Christ in the process.
It may feel daunting to figure out who we can bless, but God will reveal those people to us. Take some quiet time and journal the names that pop into your head of people who could use more kindness, peace, or gentleness in their lives. Seek to utilize thirty minutes a day displaying these qualities to the people whom God brings to your mind. For some people, it may be difficult to display these qualities. It may be because these people are difficult to love or may be geographically distant from you. Whatever the case, ask God to figure out new ways for you to display the fruits of the Spirit to these people. Ask him to soften their hearts so that when they see you, they see Jesus.
We often think that making a difference in the world is a huge gesture. Yet, we don't need a lot of money to change the world. We can display the gift of giving to people without it depleting our energy levels. We can give to others each day by utilizing the six things above. When we give without expending too much energy, we can give out of a grateful heart and not feel as though we are in need as a result.