In challenging seasons, we see the best and the worst in people. We see those who give generously of themselves to care for those who are hurting, and we see those who hoard precious resources while ignoring the needs around them. God’s gifts were never meant to be kept to ourselves, but shared. It is in living with open hands that we experience blessing for ourselves. Selfishness isolates us and does not bring about the depth of relationships that God desires for us to have with one another. Our lives are enriched when we move past our own self-interest to care for those around us.
Some of our earliest lessons in life are about how to share with others. Toddlers discover that grabbing a toy from someone else elicits distress. Children discover how to show kindness by sharing possessions. Siblings are taught to take turns with one another. As we grow, we discover that we don't get to have everything that we desire, but that we have a responsibility to share what we have been given. As we mature in our faith, we recognize the mandate we have been given to love others and share with those who are in need. Sharing is an ongoing life-lesson.
Everything we possess is on loan to us from God and not something to which we are entitled or in some way deserved. As we give, we are reminded that nothing truly belongs to us and every blessing is a gift. James 1:17 tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” By the grace of God's hand we experience favor which should inspire us to be generous with one another.
Amid a culture that is focused on consumerism and the acquisition of things, God calls us to share generously with others. In fact, when Jesus is teaching about how to get into heaven, he poses questions about how well we shared with others (Matthew 25:31-46). Did you give food to the hungry? Did you give water to the thirsty? Did you care for the poor? How well are you sharing? Our capacity to share speaks to the condition of our heart and the depth of our trust in him. When we know and trust God, we can be generous and share without hoarding, because we trust in God's control over this world and his great love for us. Sincere faith creates open hands.
Time is precious to us as our days are limited by the hours on the clock. It can sometimes be easier to share our money and possessions than it is to sacrifice our time. Jesus modeled time management in his time on earth in ways that are distinct from our cultural values. Jesus prioritized time in prayer with the Father and time in fellowship with those who had nothing to offer to him. He relaxed and dined with sinners, he hung out with those who were ill, and he spent time with little kids. Jesus models for us how ought to utilize our time.
Serving can begin with just doing your part. Even young children can help in household chores and serving neighbors. Jobs are opportunities to both belong to and serve one another. Having a role to play within the family builds community within the family. Let your gifts and talents be used for God's service! Children may do jobs imperfectly, but they will feel empowered as a contributing member of the family if they are given opportunities to contribute.
Sharing of ourselves is the best gift that we can offer to others. Our time and attention are valuable resources that demonstrate our love. 1 Thessalonians 2:8 says, "we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us." Giving our time and attention to invest in one another demonstrates God's love. Jesus chose to dwell with us in community, sacrificing for us to show his great love. We can follow that example by sharing in the lives of others. We can pick up the phone and have a conversation even if we can't be in the same room. A listening ear or a kind note show that you care.
When the early church was booming and believers were converting in the thousands, the church was dedicated to sharing with all who were in need. Acts 2:44-45 says “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” The church thrived when it was following the heart of Jesus and caring for the marginalized. Sharing with those in need reflects God's love to our broken world.
Our world is a better place when we live with open hands and share out of the abundance that God has graciously given to us. It is easy to focus inward in times of trouble, but God calls us to look beyond ourselves to see the needs of others around us and extend his compassion to our neighbors. Giving of ourselves as God gave himself for us is an excellent way to show that we are truly the Jesus-people known as Christians.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra