Expecting Nothing in Return? Not Usually.

For a long time, I have found this sentence from Jesus to be both extremely beautiful and terribly convicting:

But love your enemies, and do good, and give, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. (Luke 6:35)

This is the definition of generosity: giving, expecting nothing in return. Nothing.

That means that a generous person doesn’t keep an accounting in their relationships, i.e. a running tally of who has done more for whom. They don’t keep score. They are free from that – free to give, expecting nothing in return.

That’s a lot easier said than done though…

Recently in my conversations with two people, this topic came up. One in particular likes to help people. He’s always helping people and doing favors. Nice, right? Except there’s one problem: he’s become resentful towards some of the people he’s helped out.

The other person explained to me that he likes to buy things for other people, little token gifts. But he too struggles with feelings of resentment, when he feels that his gestures of kindness are not reciprocated.

Both of these people would say that when they do these things, they don’t expect any form of compensation for them, but yet, both of them feel resentful. Why?

At least in the case of the first person, it is because, albeit subconsciously, oftentimes he isn’t just helping for the sake of helping – he’s doing it because there is a form of compensation that he hopes to receive for doing it. In his case it is not money, it is friendship. If and when friendship does not result, he feels that he was involved in a transaction in which the other party did not pay. The only thing is: the other party wasn’t aware of the assumed agreement and didn’t realize it was a transaction.

“Free” is rarely free.

What that means is that some people give a lot, but they’re not generous – because they give for selfish reasons. For example, the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 gave a lot to the Temple, but the reason he gave was so that other people would see it and praise him as a good person. His giving was a means of self-justification and self-glorification. The money still went to good use, and it is certainly better to give to a good cause for bad reasons than to spend money wastefully or only on yourself, but God is also concerned about why we give what we give.

Tim Keller, speaking about generosity, says that some people are always doing things to help other people, but they are actually using those people to feel good about themselves – i.e. they need those people to need them. They need for people to think they are good people. It’s their source of identity and their means of trying to justify their life. They’re not doing nice things for other people for the sake of those people themselves as much as they are actually doing it for themselves.

True generosity is when you act from selfless motivation, giving something and expecting nothing in return.

This is what Jesus encourages, saying, “your father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:4)

Again, that is easier said than done. The way we can be motivated to truly act that way is through the message of the Gospel. First of all, the Gospel is that God has been generous to you, not as a transaction, but simply just because He loves you and enjoys blessing you. That’s grace. Secondly, the Gospel gives you an identity: it affirms you, saying that God not only knows you fully, but loves you completely.

Many people believe that they can either be known completely or loved completely, but not both – because if someone really gets to know them, they couldn’t possibly love them. Therefore, in order for people to love them and accept them completely, they cannot possibly allow anyone to know them completely.

But the message of the Gospel is that God BOTH knows you completely and loves you completely – at the same time. That’s incredible love and affirmation.

The message of the Gospel is that you have been justified in Christ, therefore you don’t need to work hard to justify yourself.

And when you really understand that – you’ll be free to give, expecting nothing in return: like God who gives even to the evil and the ungrateful. You’ll be free to give for the sake of giving, for the sake of another person or a cause, with no strings attached, because you are so firm in your identity, that you are already loved and justified and have value. The Gospel sets us free from our ulterior motives in doing even good things and from feelings of resentment towards those we have done acts of kindness for.

 

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Article in the Longmont Times-Call about Project Greatest Gift

Article in the Longmont Times-Call about Project Greatest Gift

Last week I wrote a post about an initiative that White Fields Community Church is doing to bless children in foster care at Christmastime. 

The Longmont Times-Call newspaper featured Project Greatest Gift and some other Longmont holiday initiatives in this article.

Project Greatest Gift – A Longmont Initiative to Help Children in Foster Care

One of the great outreaches we do here at White Fields church in Longmont is a home-grown initiative called Project Greatest Gift, which is our ministry at Christmastime to children in foster care.

Project Greatest Gift has been a tradition at White Fields since the beginning of our church, but in the past it was limited in the number of families we were able bless. After looking at ways to broaden its impact on the community and considering alternative programs such as Operation Christmas Child, we decided to attempt to bless the “orphans” of Northern Colorado. Since no orphanages existed in this area, God led us to reach out to local foster families. A couple in the church was heavily involved in the foster system and they offered to make contacts within that system to find families in need. Beginning in 2009, as a result of God’s provision and their efforts, we were able to begin blessing the foster families in Weld and Adams counties through the generous gifts of the congregation at White Fields.  Over the years, we have continued to see God’s great provision for us so we are able to continue to share His abundance with others.

In past years, our church family has provided gifts for around 40 to 60 kids. This year we have had a great outpouring of generosity, and people from our congregation have signed up to provide gifts for 90 children in Adams and Weld counties!

For those of you unfamiliar with the purpose of foster care, it is safe homes, loving caregivers and other family members who take in and provide for children whose living situation is unsafe.  Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, many children live in homes with parents addicted to drugs, who are neglectful or abusive, or who do not know how to care for children appropriately.  So foster homes are critical to meet the needs of these children while birth parents work to recover and learn to parent.  Sometimes, foster homes are also where children’s needs are met while they await a forever home through adoption.  Children in foster care experience grief and loss.  Even when their living situation was unsafe, children mourn its loss, as that is all they had ever known.  Foster parents serve not only as loving caretakers, but often also as counselors as they help the children in their care through this grief and loss.  We are so thankful that we can in some way bless these foster families too by helping provide gifts at Christmastime.

In addition to the blessing of Christmas gifts, please pray for these children that they would soon have a forever family, and more importantly, that they would come to know Jesus Christ as their savior, and God as their Heavenly Daddy.