Can we even talk about selfless giving in today’s context? Can people give without expecting some sort of reasonable return; a tax credit, a public handshake, the secret knowing of another…Each one a weight reminding ourselves, and perhaps others, of what we have done. Is it possible that giving is always about being recognized, about me and not about the gift?
For a long a time I really used to think it was about “what’s in it for me.”
The only giving I saw was that which came with commensurate flattery for my thirsty ego.
I am thankful I have had a change of heart.
Many years as a priest have taught me otherwise. I am privileged to have known and know a number of people who give without any need of acknowledgement; who just help others, who hold hands that need to be held, who comfort hearts broken by the cruelty of life; many of those who give are themselves revived hearts that tend to those newly broken…Each simply because they have found the real meaning of giving, and without which life is immeasurably diminished: you give because you must. You give because it marks you as human, you give because it defines the eternal life into which you have been created!
I suppose that the example of Jesus’ unfathomable giving is now 2000 years old. To many it has become passé, an intriguing curiosity, a quaint concept of past human behaviour, proclaimed by immature individuals who don’t understand how the “real” world works.
That is such a tragedy because it fundamentally advocates that we are all alone. To give is to acknowledge that you are not alone! To give means that you refuse to let the tide of meaningless rise any further. To give means that you do not accept that life is simply “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” To give means you wish to resonate boldly with the unrelenting generosity, the engulfing, and the unceasing source of all that is – God.
I am convinced that selfless giving is quite simply to brazenly reject and then powerfully redirect whatever keeps you locked up in your self; giving a is a defiant act of sovereignty over the self. A moment when we tangibly acknowledge that what has kept us from seeing the true nature of life no longer holds dominion on that part of us which is closest to God – our heart of hearts. Somehow that part has been called back to itself as the likeness of God. You have learned that to give is to join the current that turns creation back to itself, to its source, to its ultimate destination – to God.
You cannot help yourself, nor would you want to – you simply give! For no other reason than it has become the breath you need to live. When we are open to this simple understanding of giving the world may not be changed but our world is changed. Call it stewardship if you like, but that is merely one dimension, a consequence, of knowing the destination. The real source of giving is knowing that you are created out of God’s universe’s immense outpouring of giving. As a recipient of the giving, which is the source of your life, you know in the most genuine of “knowings” that you are not able to reciprocate but you must join in!
The divine giving which is unfailingly constant and profoundly eternal is waiting. Waiting for us to awaken from the insidious lethargy which can overtake us in life. Brought on by pain, fear, and selfishness, to name but three, the sleep of death can begin imperceptibly long before our pulse stops. Giving enlivens us to the non stop pulse of life in God.
We give because, like love itself, it’s the reason for our creation and in whose image we claim our humanity – God.
So, in the face of contrary claims about the nature of giving as fundamentally self serving WE need to remind ourselves that we are children of selfless giving. Giving has a core claim on us because it rises from our deepest intuition; we are all children of the God whose fingerprints are everywhere – grace!