Monday, January 17, 2011

The Generosity Matrix

One of these days I'm going to finish Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.And one day after that I plan to write a review of it. Why has it taken so long for me to get through it? Not lack of time. Not busyness to excess. Not poor writing.

The main reason? Guilt. The feelings of guilt that seize my heart are much greater than the compulsion to love those within my very circle of immediate influence. Going to a third-world country with Bibles, food, and medicine seems more glorifying to God than homeschooling my child, fixing meals for my family, folding the umpteen thousandth load of laundry. Responding to the massive and critical needs of the world seems to trump my family's need for food, clean clothes, and education. Especially when I see how we eat, how many outfits we have, and the quality of education our children are getting.

As I'm reading Radical, I am convicted on one page and compelled by love to give more to the hurting poor of the world, to abandon all my worldly possessions and life in America as I know it, and take the next flight into the depths of the Amazon jungle to find lost people who've never heard the name of Jesus. I fantasize that my husband will suddenly morph into Jim Elliot and I will be his Elisabeth. (But the end won't be tragic for us.) Thinking thoughts like this make me imagine that I'm doing more pleasing work for God than sitting here "a spoiled rich American" taking care of her home and family. Is it not good enough to cheer on my husband to whom God has given the ability to make money and manage it wisely? Why do I think God would be more pleased if we liquidated our assets and gave everything to the poor? Would we not then leave our own children poor, and have no inheritance to give them or their children ( and thereby disregard another scriptural principle)?

There was no lasting peace in my heart while reading the book. Conviction would be sweet, but that's not what's happening. I keep thinking, "I can never do enough. I can't give enough, pray enough, go often enough overseas or into inner city ghettos to measure up to the call of the Great Commission" as David Platt keeps talking about. To me, the balance is missing. It's as if he says, "It's wrong to have wealth and it's wrong for you to be part of a church that has nice buildings." (Granted, I am more at peace in a modest house and a simple church building and would squirm in ones I thought too lavish. Nor do I espouse renting a home or a school gym forever and a day as wise stewardship.)

I am quickly "tripped up" by the swinging pendulum on the issue of giving. How much is enough? Can I buy another pair of shoes when I know there are poor kids with not even one pair? Why do I own more than one Bible when 20 Christians underground in Asia are sharing three pages from a torn New Testament? When is enough enough in our savings account? When we know someone is unemployed in the household of faith, do we give to them, and if so, how much and how often? The needs are overwhelming. Where do you start and where do you end in the helping?

Enter this article, The Generosity Matrix, by JD Greear, directed to me on Facebook by my pastor, Joel Rishel. Greear has enumerated six principles that should be held in tension on the matter of money. The bottom line? Live sufficiently and give extravagantly.
It's a liberating article that I needed to read today--and to revisit whenever I feel the guilt pangs of not giving enough. I particularly needed to read this:

So, have you given
enough? The simple truth is this: the Gospel eschews the word “enough” in any context, except in describing Christ’s work on our behalf. “Enough” will most always become a form of compulsion, which Paul says is not to be an operative motive in our giving. “Have I given enough?” is a question that pounds us with guilt and “compels” us to give more to feel good about ourselves. Paul, by contrast, says that God loves free, cheerful givers who give because they absolutely love to, not because they are compelled to (2 Corinthians 9:5).


Rachelle said...

I absolutely agree with Paul. I also believe that any of the principles in Radical can be about us. But we must be diligent in not allowing what WE do to become an idol or some kind of measure of how we gauge God's love or grace...I know, I know, it's a tail chase. I love Greear's principle!
We don't give or do in order to get grace, we give and do because we've been given God's grace.
Thank you for reviewing the little orange book. I consider you're opinion of very high importance. And I knew this was a tough read...which is why I wanted to challenge you with it! Because I know you have a solid foundation.
Love you.

Zoanna said...

Rachelle, I am so glad you sent it to me, and so glad you value my opinion (for whatever it's worth--chuckle, chuckle). I have just learned that if the motivation for doing something is pity or fear, it won't last long, especially if there appears to be no appreciation or when the going gets rough .In other words, unless you are confident in God's love and are sensitive to His Spirit, burnout from giving here/there'n'everywhere can certainly become more about assuaging guilt than of seeing God's kingdom furthered.

Rachelle said...

Yes, yes and yes!! These principles should bring freedom!

In the parable of the rich young ruler the principle is the motivation of our heart. If our motivation is out of anything other than an outpouring of God's love and the leading of the holy spirit then we are aimlessly spending our energy, time and resources. And still, usually, feeling guilty that we haven't done enough.

This truth should let us rest in God's unfathomable grace!