I stopped at the light and noticed her. She had a bruise under one eye and a hand-written cardboard sign in the other.
I need help.
That’s all it said. It was raining outside, so I grabbed an umbrella and tried to dig some cash out of my purse before the light changed. She ran to the window and I said goodbye. Later when I passed back by, she was standing at the same light, my red umbrella somewhat sheltering her from the torrential rain.
To be truthful, I wasn’t sure I had done enough. The Holy Spirit had prompted me to do something, but was an umbrella and a few dollars sufficient?
Later I shared the story with a couple of friends.
Their response was not that I hadn’t done enough, but that I had done too much.
And there we were — the struggle that we all face sometimes when it comes to giving.
My friends were protective of me, though I assured them that I was a smart girl and that I try to listen closely to God in these things.
One said that she’d given money once and later found out that this person earned more than she did standing on the street corner.
Another said that she’d invited someone into her home to offer shelter, and that they took advantage of her.
What about drugs? You’re just feeding her addiction, another said.
This led to a deeper conversation. Clearly scriptures says to give, even sacrificially. It’s the heart of our faith.
But what if you give and it hurts . . . in a bad way?
What if someone takes advantage of your generosity? What if you forgive (a beautiful form of giving) and your words come back to harm you? What if you give to a friend, a loved one, a neighbor, and that gift is not appreciated in any way?
Scriptures tell us to open our hearts to others, to feed the poor, to notice the downtrodden, to give to the body of Christ.
Experience tells us sometimes we do just that and it backfires.
So, if we give and it hurts us, do we stop?
I don’t think so.
Shutting down generosity robs us. It makes us cynical. It blinds us to the needs around us. We start acting as if we don’t have the Holy Spirit to guide us, when He promises He will.
I don’t want any of that junk in my heart, do you?
So, let’s be wise givers
Let’s partner with those who are already doing it well. One friend, who has a desire to help the homeless, started giving to a local ministry that is actively loving this segment of the population. They know them by name. They know the needs. They are also teaching her, sharing those things she can do that make a lasting difference.
Let’s realize that the whole world isn’t our assignment, which frees us to joyfully step into that which is. That morning The Lord placed that woman on my heart. On other days He asks me to tip more than the average at a restaurant. Sometimes He asks me to offer a kind word when the situation doesn’t seem to merit it. Every assignment isn’t my assignment, but many times it is and God’s at work and is asking me to partner with Him in that work.
Let’s give when we sense God asking us to give, and if it’s used in a way that we wish it wasn’t, that’s not ours to fix. We’ll ask God to show us what to do the next time, we’ll trust that He sees something we do not.
Let’s be wise and protect our children and our well being, listening carefully to the Holy Spirit when says a strong “no” even if it tugs at our heartstrings.
Let’s realize that giving isn’t a payback system. Sometimes giving is messy. Sometimes you’ll forgive because God is leading you to wholeness, but the person you forgive isn’t there yet, but He’s changing you and you step into that transformation. Sometimes you’ll give and they won’t appreciate it — but you give because you’re called to live a generous life.
You can always give without loving, but you can never love without giving. ~Amy Carmichael
And sometimes you’ll hand someone an umbrella and a few dollars and you won’t know the whole story, but God does.
It’s may be less about what you think she’ll do with it (or not), and more about you hearing His voice and saying yes.
How is God leading you to give today?
Thank you for this awesome message Suzie!! You have no idea the sense of relief reading your words tonight has brought me. I have always felt that my “job” or “direction from God” was to give and help others in need. It was never about judging whether or not that person was going to “do the right thing” with what I’d given. My parents have always told me to stop giving, keep my money in my purse, “you can’t afford it” is one I hear so often. What I can’t afford is to not listen to God when he places a message on my heart. I have tried to ignore those messages in the past. Truly it’s not worth it. I end up feeling uncomfortable, like I’ve done something wrong, to the point at times of feeling physically sick or have actual pain. Then I backtrack and do what God asked me to do in the first place lol I find I have to keep my gifting/helping hidden from people around me, especially family, as it causes big arguments. By keeping it quiet, and doing what God asks of me, everyone is happy lol 🙂 Bless you Suzie, thank you so much for confirming what I’ve always felt was right 🙂
Thanks, Suzie. I look forward to your emails; I find inspiration in them. I’m learning that successful Christian living is IMPOSSIBLE without being led by the Holy Spirit. Learning to hear Him is essential.
Suzie you are so right! I too believe that the Holy Spirit guides our minds and our hearts and directs us when we need to reach out and give to others. I feel my heart strings being pulled at these times.
Very recently, I was verbally attacked by a relative who thought that I was too “generous”, that my husband would appreciate it if I didn’t spend so much of his money. This relative had spoken to other family members before blasting me to support her stance. After much thought about her words I came to the same conclusion as you. Giving brings great joy to me. I do not want to become bitter and cynical and “penny pinching” (I do know how to spend wisely).
And yes, I must also trust that my offering at church is under good stewardship and directed in the manner most pleasing to God.
Thank you for reminding us what love and the Holy Spirit wants to do in us. I have done this on occasions, helped those I did not know. I do not do for self gratification I do to let those in need know there is hope in this world thru God, Christians, humanity. To many are skeptical. I agree you have to be careful as unforutunately this world is not always safe. However, God never leaves you and I know when you act on his behalf he see, hears, knows all. Those who are fortunate should never take anything for granted. Everyone is subject to fall from Grace, life altering events, hardships, it can happen to anyone at any time. Those facing addictions it is an illness let’s everyone have some compassion for our human souls we share this earth with. God has compassion for all saints and sinners. Without him we are nothing all blessings come from him health, family, friends, shelter, food, jobs, money, education etc. Never judge you could be that individual with a sign that just reads help.
Beautifully said. If I feel God prompting me, I’m going to listen. It isn’t my business what they do with it. My business is being open to God’s voice.
Bless your words. I have been the person who gave and got taken advantage of. I wouldn’t change any of it. It made me a better person, and the other person is not for me to decide. In the end, it was so worth it. I would far rather err on the side of grace than be too smart for the Spirit to have any space at all.
Addiction is a bully. Truth my friend. Truth. I’m tweeting that.