This summer, explosions in the Chinese city of Tianjin were met with an encouraging humanitarian response. As the Monitor’s Editorial Board pointed out, “China ranks near the bottom on a world giving index, based on a survey of 135 countries for their level of donations and volunteering” (“After another China disaster, giving again in spotlight,” CSMonitor.com).
According to the editorial, the Communist Party “is worried about China’s low ranking in generosity but also a rise in the number of charities that might challenge the party's leadership.” But is a spirit of selfless giving something that can be obstructed? As the editorial also observed, “Giving comes from the heart, making it difficult for the party to either encourage or control.”
The concept that giving comes from the heart is not a new one. Nearly two millenniums ago, Paul taught, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (II Corinthians 9:7).
I’ve always loved this statement, in part because it is so inclusive – “every man." And it places such value on the spirit with which we give, rather than on physical quantity or monetary value of what’s being given. Paul’s instruction has helped me realize that no matter what the circumstances – our financial situation, how much spare time we have, where in the world we are located – we can all cherish a giving spirit.
Christ Jesus commanded, “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Jesus’ teachings and works reveal that God is good and that His love fills all space, embraces all His creation, because He is infinite, divine Love itself. As we learn in the first chapter of Genesis, this creation includes man, made in the spiritual likeness of his creator. That means that each of us receives the innumerable spiritual blessings that God, good, “loadeth us with” (Psalms 68:19) – love, harmony, abundance, joy. As Mary Baker Eddy, Discoverer of Christian Science and founder of the Monitor, writes, “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. vii).
Furthermore, because we reflect divine Love, it’s natural for us to express love outwardly, and to enjoy doing so. And since love’s source, God, is infinite, we always have enough love to express. Science and Health explains, “Giving does not impoverish us in the service of our Maker, neither does withholding enrich us” (p. 79).
Several years ago, a desire to make a financial contribution to an organization I cherished became stressful. I had felt inspired to give in this way, but now I worried about giving “too little” in the eyes of whoever would process the donation, and about disadvantaging myself by giving “too much.”
After a couple of days of such fretting, it occurred to me that at that point, no matter what I gave, I certainly wasn’t being a “cheerful giver”! I mentally paused, considering how infinitely God is Love and how completely man reflects Him. I saw that my self-involved approach was inconsistent with my true identity as the reflection of Love, which blesses all its creation and inspires in us the desire to bless others and to give.
As I thought about all this, the burden I’d been feeling lifted, and shortly thereafter I felt led to make a donation that seemed just right. Most important, though, what I learned in this experience has helped me give – love, joy, kindness – more freely and cheerfully.
No matter what the circumstance, striving to nurture a selfless spirit of giving is natural, because we reflect God, the Giver of infinite good, who blesses all.