My daddy was a modest man who made a modest income. He never had ambitions to be rich and famous, have a financial portfolio, or have a fancy office with “CEO” on the office door. No, he only wanted a few dollars in his worn-out wallet, to be able to drive his truck until the wheels fell off, and to work hard every day until he physically could not. He benevolently gave to anyone in need: family, hitchhikers (back in the day), the hungry, the poor, widows and children, church folks, and unchurched folks. My daddy lived a life of generosity and love for people right before my eyes, but it wasn’t until our family fell on hard times that I understood what giving and gratitude truly meant.
Hurricane Hugo slammed the Carolinas on September 22, 1989. The devastation was horrific in our city. Debris lined the streets for weeks and neighbors rallied to help one another. My sweet daddy was a general contractor, so when the city restored power and cleared the roads, the phone starting ringing. One particular job he accepted changed our lives forever.
My father was up on the roof when he fell and broke his leg. It was the worst break the orthopedic surgeon had seen. His first recommendation was to amputate from the knee down. After prayer and lots of consultation, we opted for my dad to undergo a surgery to repair his shattered ankle and badly broken leg. The surgery was followed by months of therapy and no guarantee of real success. The doctor forecasted that my dad would not be able to return to work for at least one year, if ever.
At the time, I was a senior in college and planning a wedding. My family was without words—and an income. But we didn’t worry; God had always blessed the work of this hardworking carpenter. My parents had always trusted God with their finances, generously given to others, and never missed a tithe. They had been faithful to God, and we knew God would be faithful to us. We didn’t know how, but we knew Who.
Worker’s comp paid 30 percent of my daddy’s salary, but that was hardly enough to live on (my mom’s arthritis kept her out of the workforce). To help with expenses, I moved back home from college rather than living on campus. We did all we could to minimize our spending.
One evening while my mom was writing out the bills (these were the pay-by-check and snail-mail days), I noticed a check to our church. I questioned her, “Mom, why are you tithing? God knows Daddy isn’t working. Do you really think He still expects you to tithe?” Her reply: “You can’t outgive the Lord.”
It wasn’t long until I learned the reality of her words. While my parents faithfully continued to tithe on a reduced income, ten couples in our church committed to cover the 70 percent income loss that worker’s comp did not pay for an entire year. This is the greatest testimony of generous giving I’ve ever witnessed. My parents gave exponentially, and it was given back exponentially.
When approached about giving, most people think about money. Some may think that if you don’t have money, then you have nothing to give. However, generous giving means more than opening our wallets. While some have the financial means to give extraordinarily, others have talents and time they can offer.
Jesus is our best example of giving, don’t you think? He never collected a paycheck and didn’t own a home or anything of value. Despite His meager means, He gave what He had: love, compassion, time, and of course, healing. Jesus spent time having dinner at His friends’ homes (Luke 10:38–42), as well as religious leaders who sought to discredit Him (7:36). He invested time even with those who opposed Him.
Generous giving isn’t only about money. Being a good steward of all that you have and having a willingness to make investments in the kingdom of God helps provide you with opportunities to give generously. Consider babysitting for a young couple in your church who are financially unable to pay for a sitter. Invest in a relationship with a college student who is far from home and needs a little TLC. Offer to help in your community’s food bank on a weekly basis. Open your home to host a small group. Take a church bulletin to a shut-in and spend some time talking with her about the Sunday service.
An investment of time and talents is just as valuable as money. Additionally, it’s not just about what you give; it’s about the heart behind the giving. My parents and the lavish support of others taught me a life-long lesson that has stood the test of time: You can’t out-give the Lord.
Wendy is the author of Yes, No and Maybe: Living with the God of Immeasurably More with companion Bible study curriculum, Wait and See: Finding Peace in God’s Pauses and Plans and the Wait and See Participant’s Guide: A Six-Session Study on Waiting Well. She has led thousands of women through her Read Thru the Word (RTW) study of the One Year Chronological Bible.