THE SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE OF GIVING

I am unlikely to be the first person to suggest what follows. There would have been many before me to do so. I am going to call 'giving' a spiritual discipline with the emphasis on finances.

There are many spiritual disciplines with which one can engage. These include meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, worship, celebration, and hospitality with many more besides. Marjorie Johnson in her book 'Soul Feast' suggests that the human life is much like a rambling rose in need of a trellis. Without a trellis the flowers would fall in a heap on the ground and decay. Their sweet fragrance would not be enjoyed, nor their beauty. The Christian spiritual disciplines act much like the trellis - providing support and structure for a life that is intentional about spiritual commitment with the fruit and fragrance to prove it.

Take an unhurried moment to read the following passage from Genesis 4:1-5.

The story of Cain and Abel is well known. Personally speaking I had not given much attention to verses 4-5 in the past, nestled away as they are in a story with glaring tones of deceit, murder, jealousy and the consequences of actions. How true is this of our lives, that giving gets nestled away amongst our busyness, our desires and seemingly more pressing priorities? I believe these verses to be pivotal to our concept of what it means to give of our resources to God, particularly verses 4-5: "and Abel for his part brought of the firstlings of his flock, their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell" (NRSV). There is giving to God and then there is giving God our best.

After being elected as the Army's 20th General, Andre Cox, shared his 'I Dream' statements with the rest of the world. He dreams of an Army that "shuns the dependency culture." As a collective movement we could contribute to increasing the finances at our disposal by practicing the spiritual discipline of giving as well as shun the dependency culture of which General Cox speaks - the mentality that suggests we are owed something or that others will come to our rescue in time of need or pay our way when we don't want to.

For those of us who are Soldiers we pledged to give all we could from our available finances in order to advance the mission; "giving as large a proportion of (my) income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army." It could be that some have lost their way in this regard but it is possible to get back on rack.

 
It can take an extreme amount of self discipline to pay God first from our wages or salary, allowances or government subsidies. It can take true grit to say no to something which we have saved for and wanted when faced with the need of another. The notion of self denial may arise when we cease to pay for something that has yielded little eternal value even if it was enjoyable, and instead begin to invest in something that will bear kingdom reward. It can take great sacrifice to give God not just what we can rustle up at the last minute but to give thoughtfully and prayerfully from the first and fullest portion of our financial resources.

God has proved time and again throughout history that he is the Great Giver not least of which the time when he gave his one and only son to die for our sins. This story of Cain and Abel shows that when we give God our best he gives to us in return. He gives us his high regard and will reward our delight in serving and giving him what arises out of the overflow of our delight in, thanksgiving to and awe of him. This spiritual discipline, like others, will produce the fragrance and fruit that comes from our commitment to becoming like Christ. 

 

Captain Jodie Pethybridge

Corps Officer Forster/Tuncurry

Australia Eastern Territory

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