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The joy of giving

Since starting this blog, I’ve been writing a series of articles about how I decide how to spend money and why we buy things wishing to be better. Those articles get at some of the mindsets I’ve been trying to adopt and the practical changes I’ve been making in my life. I thought it would be good to talk about why those changes are important and what they can enable.

As I was thinking of the why minimalism connected with me as deeply as it has, I realized that some of the idea is actually scriptural.  In Mark 10:17-31, Jesus encountered a rich young man who asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life.  In verse 21, Jesus responded that he should sell all of his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Him.  

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Mark 10:21

Over the past week, I’ve been thinking about this verse a lot.  As my wife and I continue to work to figure out how we want things to look in the future, we are starting to make some key decisions about what to do with our excess things.  There are lots of things that can be done, from selling to donating.  Selling feels the most productive, but we often don’t get as much out of something as we think it is worth.  The value we place on the thing make this harder.  Seeing your hard-earned money in a donation box can really hurt.

That said, we’ve given things away for years.  Taking a box of stuff to a thrift store feels ok.  I know that people will get some good from it, but I also know that a lot of times it’s just people looking for a deal, not people in deep need.  It’s kind of the minimum viable product of donations.  It meets a need, but isn’t perfected.  It also doesn’t help release us from the guilt of wasted money that we can feel in the process.

One of the things I love about our church is how connected it is in the community we live in.  That allows us to get to know the needs of the people around you.  Lots of things happen that cause people to need help.  A family might have a house fire.  Someone might have a medical issue that causes them to have expenses that are more than they can handle.  There might be an organization that you know that needs toilet paper.  All of these things have happened around us over the past year.

We’ve had several opportunities to help with specific needs over the past few months.  What we’ve found through all of it is the joy of helping our friends and neighbors.  When the giving gets connected directly to a need, the benefit becomes readily apparent.  Knowing that we are able to aid real people with a real problem is a tremendous reward.  Seeing a smile, getting a thank you, or just knowing that the thing went to a place that it really mattered is about as rewarding as I think giving can get.  

When we can connect our giving to our community, it all comes full circle. The value of the thing is suddenly diminished, because of the value you know the receiver is placing on it. When we value people more than stuff, we can start to live the life that we were intended to, together. The community is made more real by small acts of kindness, caring for one another, and, above all, being known to one another. With that mindset, we can be better neighbors and friends.

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