Donald Miller begins his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years with some clever (but poignant) lines about story. He tells a brieftale about a guy who works all the time to save up for a car.With a humorous delivery, he explains that no one really wants to read abook or watch a movie about a man who works hard just so he can purchase an expensive car; it is not the least bit inspiring or noble. It makes me laugh to think that Jesus might have called a fisherman or two there at the seaside that turned him down because they had just leased a new convertible and had to keep hauling nets to make the payments. And yet, for many of us, that is exactly the type of story we are living! Our lives are black holes of insatiable spending and consumption. We order our lives around the next purchase that we believe can make us happy.
I was speaking recently about the power of story, and in the midst of the talk stumbled across something profound in my own narrative. I am transformed when I give. My life is affected when I take the time and plan to do something with a neighbor in mind. When I give, it requires that I step outside of my own world and recognize (if only for moments) that someone else has needs. In a world illuminated by the bright lights of consumerism and driven by constant reminders of what we should purchase to be complete and satisfied, often the first step in remembering the spiritual is found in the simple act ofacknowledging and responding to the needs of others.
Yesterday, I wrote about Reverend Sykes from To Kill a Mockingbird and his profound commitment to caring for the needs of his own congregation. Curiously, the most common question I receive about giving (and the one I often ask myself) is simply – how much am I required to give?
I love the way C. S. Lewis responded to this query:
“Giving to the poor is an essential part of Christian morality. I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I’m afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, and amusement, is up to the standard common of those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things that we’d like to do but cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
I wonder how transforming and fulfilling our story could be if we endeavoredto give in this way…