Freely you have received, freely give. — Matthew 10:8b
A home landscape enables personal subsistence but also generosity. It enables community to exist and function. — Wendell Berry, What Matters?
Over and over the Bible reminds us to share with God’s people who are in need, to take care of widows and orphans, to love and care for our neighbors as ourselves. I think most of us wish to do this.
Sometimes we’re blocked by the feeling that we don’t have enough money ourselves. This may be literally true for some who can’t afford adequate food, basic medical care and decent housing. For most of us I think it is a false belief induced either by the extravagant desires created by advertising or by the fear created by seeking absolute security from anything other than God.
Giving is an antidote to those desires and fears. People feel rich when they become aware that they have something to give. Free giving becomes easier when we live off-grid, when we provide more of our own needs with our own labor. This self-reliance tends to produce surplus in itself—if you grow enough tomatoes or zucchini for yourself, chances are you also have enough to share. It also frees us from the feeling of total dependency on money, and makes it easier for us to share that resource.
Another obstacle to our giving is the overwhelming nature of the need around us. Today’s communication technologies bombard us with images of people in need—refugees, victims of wars and natural disasters and simple poverty—all over the world. Whatever we feel able to give, it seems too little to matter. It’s tempting to avoid this discomfort by not giving and not thinking about it.
This is true not only of giving but of any attempt to live an alternative to the consumer culture. Many of us look at the world around us and are dismayed by political corruption, environmental degradation, and the deterioration of families and communities. Our attempts to live more faithfully and sanely may seem hopeless in the face of all that’s wrong.
But we are not God. The whole struggle does not rest with us. We are called to work well, to take care of the land and people around us, and to reach out to whatever others God lays especially on our hearts. When we do this faithfully we see not only the need and brokenness around us but also the goodness of the land, the love and truth in our neighbors’ souls, and God’s grace sustaining us all.