What I Learned This Summer on Generosity and Sacrifice

(Note: J and I had one of our friends live with us this summer — read this post for a little context on the following post.) 

I have a romantically skewed view of generosity. I think most of us do. We admire and respect those who pick up their lives and move to remote parts of the world to care for the sickest, poorest, loneliest people. (And we should admire and respect them! They make such great sacrifices.)

But I think our view of generosity is skewed because the sick, poor lonely people are faraway strangers.

Don’t you find it easier to give money to an organization that helps poor orphans in African than it is to give to your actual friends and family in need? I look at the girl working in an African orphanage and think, What a noble calling! but dismiss the old woman who cares for the children in our church nursery, week after week. And I bet if you asked the girl working in Africa, she’d say there wasn’t anything noble about changing diapers day after day and that the people over there are just the same as you and me over here — they grow up to be selfish, manipulative, and are in great need of a Savior.

Now, please don’t hear me that you shouldn’t give to international organizations or that those children don’t need your love and support — by all means, they do! But I do think there’s work we can do right here in America, in our very neighborhood, and we need to stop devaluing the people in front of us every day who have a need we can fill.

At least that’s just a little something I learned this summer.

Dupree needed a place to live, so we invited him to live with us. We lived together, shared meals, and hung out. Pretty simple and not really anything extraordinary. We ended the summer on great terms, he went back to Atlanta, we went back to our lives as a married couple.

But behind the scenes of ordinary summer life, God was teaching me so much about real generosity and sacrifice. I think a lot of us (myself included) feel we have to become “official” before serving. Like in order to help others it needs to be through a non-profit or a church. Or if we do serve, it has to be for the poorest of the poor, the sickest of the sick. And we want to see immediate amazing results — that the work I’m doing is really important and where would these people be without me?

But in reality, helping others is simply responding to God’s command to love one another and being open to the people and opportunities He gives you, whether your good works amount to anything or not. (Now, you may think I’m talking about this like J and I did something amazing and noble, but really there isn’t anything amazing about having a houseguest for a summer. But it was still a sacrifice for us and still met a real need for him.)

I will be honest, the summer and circumstances leading up to it were hard for us all — but the best kind of hard. The kind of hard that stretches you, grows you. The kind of hard that requires you to live outside of your comfort zone. The kind of hard that depends on friends and family to help. The kind of hard that makes you throw up your hands and say, Okay God, this situation is pretty much helpless, you’re the only one who’s going to be able to fix this! — and then sit back and actually watch Him fix it.

And when the dust settles and you see how God provided? When you finally get a taste of what it really means to live out the gospel? When you are obedient to what he asks and he does more than you could imagine? You want more. More opportunities for faith. More people to help and enrich your life. More challenges to watch God work.

That’s a scary prayer to make, asking God for more opportunities for faith. When people pray that, he has a track record of taking them on crazy journeys. But even if it’s a simple, humble request, I’m open and ready to see what other needs God places in front of me and with his strength, help to fill them.

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