Giving a Lot When You Have Little

I’m kind of the poster child for those of the twentysomethings that have been hit by the economic crisis. I’m a newlywed. My husband is a grad student and earns a paltry salary as a teacher’s assistant. I have a BA in English that isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on in the tiny little town we moved to for my husband’s schooling. And of course we’re still paying for that degree as well as a car. Not to be all “woe is me”—I just want you to know, when it comes to money problems, I’m right there with you.

For the most part, I can look at it as an adventure. Planning meals around coupons, hunting the best bargains, finding ways to stay healthy so my uninsured self doesn’t have to visit the doctor—it certainly tests your creativity and ability to improvise. Given our situation, you can probably imagine how resentful I can get when I feel God asking me to give to my neighbors.

How are we supposed to give to others when we’re stretched to the limit ourselves?

At first, we toyed with the idea of stopping our tithes, but even with our creative justification skills we were unable to reason that God only wants a portion of our excess wealth.

But that made it easy to fall into the next trap: feeling that our tithe was more than adequate and we had no need to give anywhere else. Let’s face it—tossing that ten percent into the offering plate can sometimes make our meals much leaner. However, God shook us out of complacency with the example of the woman in Luke 21 who gave the two pennies she had, which Jesus said was a greater gift than the vast amounts the wealthy gave because she gave all she had to give.

Don’t get me wrong. While I believe that sometimes God will ask you to give over and beyond your means, I also believe that, generally, we are to be prudent stewards of whatever we have, be it much or little. So when I’m barely scraping by and a college kid asks me for $150 for groceries, chances are I’m not going to fork over more money for groceries than we spend in two weeks. However, I do have recipes that make surprising amounts of food for the little money it costs. So I’ll invite my hungry friend over for dinner and pack up some leftovers.

But what about the church I attend? It’s going through some pretty rough financial times, and as much as we’d love to give more, we simply can’t. Handing over a recipe won’t do them much good. However, the church also runs a deli and coffeehouse during the week. Although I can’t give money, I can volunteer at the deli so they pay one fewer worker.
After all, your money cannot be that important to God. While it may be what makes the world go round, wealth is a hindrance. Jesus said it’s actually much more difficult for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:24), so why do we feel as though we would be better Christians if we could just make more money to donate to His cause?

In the end, it comes down to trusting God and His provision. While you can’t sit on your couch waiting for the mailman to deliver paychecks you didn’t earn, trust God to take care of you if you take advantage of the opportunities He gives. The main reason my husband and I are reluctant to give is we’d rather save those few extra dollars as insurance against some future catastrophe. And we do save what we can, but not if it interferes with our tithes or if we feel someone else needs it more.

My point is, rather than mourning or feeling guilty that you can’t give as much money as you’d like, find ways you can give. When you don’t have two quarters to rub together, find other ways to help. Lend a loving ear, a helping hand, the time you’re spending in front of a video game console. Give as God gave to you, and trust that He will continue to find ways to provide for you.

Author: Tanya Carden

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