Friday, September 07, 2007

Giving with Joy

One of the most significant books I've read over the past few years has been Margin by Richard Swenson. He is a medical doctor who many years ago reached the burnout stage, which led to the birth of this very timely book. Dr. Swenson did an extensive look at busy, debt-ridden, overloaded lives that are so prevalent in our culture. And then he "writes out a prescription" for how to alleviate the pain we bring upon ourselves and our loved ones. He convincingly makes the case for how we need margin -- space, wiggle room -- in every area of our lives: financially, our time, physical energy and our emotions.

I especially like his chapter about providing margin in our money matters. He makes the case for how debt is such an emotional and relational virus that cripples our lives. And then he shows what we can do once we get out of debt and have extra money each month. The prescription for Christians? Give it away! Here are a few gems from this chapter:

Meeting the needs of others delivers us from the world of selfishness and into a world of grace and gratitude. In are choosing Heaven as the place you will put your treasure. You are doing what God asked you to do, and what He did Himself. In giving, you are pleasing Him. Money is powerful -- very powerful. It is so powerful, taught Jesus ,that it competes head-to-head with God. How is it possible to break the substantial power money holds over us? Very simple -- give it away...When we give money away, we not only neutralize its power over us, but we also bring it under the domain of the Kingdom of Light. God is honored, and His lordship is confirmed.

I haven't thought of Swenson's deeply challenging and freeing words for some time. However, as I read Paul's persuasive exhortation to the Corinthians to give generously, this book came to mind. He reminds his fellow believers that our Lord will always provide what we need when we give to others:

God loves the person who gives cheerfully. And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,“Godly people give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will never be forgotten. -- 2 Cor 9:7b-9

Isn't that one of the keys of being a generous person? We trust God to take care of us when we give some of our resources away. And isn't that the battle we struggle with? (I certainly do): we're fearful in giving away "our money" because we won't think there is enough for us.

I love the phrase that I read in one of Stephen Covey's book years ago: ABUNDANCE MENTALITY. If I really believe that our Lord owns a cattle on a thousand hills, that there is an abundance of resources in His storehouse, then I will more likely give away more money and more things to those in need. And it just seems that being a giving person in the name of Jesus is a powerful witness to the giving nature of our Father, who He gave us the ultimate gift.



At 10:30 PM, Blogger Tam said...

On the margin thing, even in the little things like margin of giving your self 10 extra minutes to get somewhere so you don't have to stress . In our family, we call it a buffer . Also in money- it helps to have a little buffer in the account. When you live so that you build in a little buffer in all you do, it makes such a difference. Its a habit, like all good things hard to do but what a blessing.

At 10:42 AM, Blogger Beverly said...

well someone needs to tell Richard Swenson because you've read about 3 million books and that's quite an honor. love you Jim and Susan.

At 2:57 PM, Blogger Jim Clark said...


And I must confess that I am so bad about giving that buffer in getting somewhere. Trying to learn it with money, but it's so easy to spend what you have.

Bev, I guess I could say, "Hi, I'm Jim. And I'm a bookaholic." : )

Will there be books in heaven?


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