Let God direct your giving
When our efforts to help others are motivated by a desire to bear witness to God’s goodness, they naturally become more joyful and renewing, rather than overwhelming and frustrating.
Many people today feel stressed and put upon. Parents, teachers, caregivers and others feel drained. They’re giving time, but too often not finding joy in the giving.
At one point in my life, giving of myself to friends who needed help frequently became a joyless burden, summoning up feelings of being used. But things turned around when I learned how to listen first to what God was telling me to do.
One day I woke up with that “here we go again” feeling. I’d offered to help a friend, and I already felt overextended before even getting out of bed! Why did I keep doing this? Being the ideal friend seemed to mean jumping in to fill someone’s need and never disappointing anyone. I felt responsible for everyone else’s well-being. But to “rescue” them often involved doing the work that was actually theirs to do – and in the process sacrificing my time, energy, and joy.
I found encouragement, though, in a message of the Bible: that no one is deficient. This includes us and anyone we may be helping. We abound with the good freely given to us by God. Made in the image of the one infinite divine Mind, we’re each the brilliant and completely spiritual expression of God. We naturally manifest such God-given qualities as wisdom, creativity, strength, purpose, and joy. And the divine intelligence that endows us also provides the opportunities to put these qualities to use – for our benefit and that of others.
Christ Jesus was the supreme example of giving to others out of his God-given spiritual capacities – healing and providing for others. He referred to the “burden” he carried as light, and he invited us to carry it, too: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, J.B. Phillips New Testament).
Jesus wasn’t personally responsible for other people. But he did take responsibility for how he saw them. Looking beyond apparent brokenness and deprivation, he found – and proved – God’s inexhaustible gift of health and strength, always present and working on behalf of everyone.
In my situation, this was the breakthrough. I realized that there was a difference between being responsible for everyone else and taking responsibility for how I saw them. One is sometimes joy-less, the other is joy-full!
The concept that we are man-made and self-made is a limited, material view of creation. It highlights lack that needs to be materially compensated for. But we all have a God-given ability to spiritually discern what God has put in place – abundant good – and to enjoy its benefits!
I decided to rely on this spiritual sense to guide me. Whenever there was an opportunity to give of myself, I first asked, “Why am I giving?” And through prayer, the answer became less about the need to feel appreciated by others, and more about seeing others as God sees them – whole and fulfilled. It was about being in a position to bear witness to their spiritual manifestation of God-created perfection. And I realized that was enough.
With this shift in motive, I felt free to step up and joyfully volunteer. And when something didn’t feel as though it was mine to do, I could decline without feeling I’d let someone down. Doing right by God has sustained me in every decision. Learning how to be a truly good friend – loving unselfishly and without expectation of anything in return – has revealed what I actually needed: a clearer sense of who I am, who everyone is, as God’s capable, joy-filled, spiritual offspring.
Mary Baker Eddy, who established the Monitor to benefit humanity, wrote in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Giving does not impoverish us in the service of our Maker, neither does withholding enrich us” (p. 79). Getting clear and unambiguous about the one relationship – the direct relation we all have to our infinite source, God – and seeing others as God sees them leads to selfless, joyful expression. Following divine guidance in giving to others nourishes, inspires, and renews us.
The New Testament in Modern English by J.B. Phillips copyright © 1960, 1972 J.B. Phillips. Administered by The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. Used by permission.