So, true, an opportunity to see what delightful finds I might bring home is part of the anticipation I have with the upcoming Free Sale at Three Rivers Grace.
But another reason I love this idea of a Free Sale is because it removes the labels and challenges the vocabulary we tend to use when we talk about service and compassion and giving to others.
Perhaps one reason why this time of year garners such an increase in the amount of giving (according to surveys of churches and non-profits) is because when we give, to paraphrase Eric Liddell, we “feel God’s pleasure” -- and not without reason! Scripture is rich with teachings about the biblical character traits of hospitality, generosity and charity, and there are plenty of passages that exhort believers to give and anticipate godly blessing. Proverbs 11:24-25 says, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” Hebrews 13:6 promises God’s pleasure to those who share freely -- what greater blessing is there than knowing that we have pleased God with our generosity?
With this in mind, I wonder why I haven’t thought more about the gift of being a recipient, a beneficiary of someone else’s opportunity to give? Too often, I’m afraid, I pat myself on the back for the planning and scheduling that goes into the annual project of giving, letting my thinking get trapped into a “us” and “them” mode, like “Those people need this” and “I have so much and am able to give to them because they do not have and cannot give.” What makes me more qualified to be a giver? Is it what I have, as if it is more valuable because of trendiness or marketing labels -- because of where I live and am able to shop and my income level? What obligates “them” to the place of recipient? Where they live and shop? An inability to give? My Bible says that the widow’s mites were of greater value to the kingdom than the fraction of riches others gave.
Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” (Luke 21:1-4)
Am I hoarding the feeling of God’s pleasure? Or maybe I am so stuck in stereotypes that I don’t even see that others are capable of pleasing God through their measures of generosity, meeting my needs, despite my narrow and limited realization that I am needy.
Now I am a free market capitalist, but the rules of capitalism don’t govern generosity and compassion. In fact, one of the reasons I love a Free Sale is because it keeps me from being too settled in my economic views. A Free Sale blurs the lines between giver and receiver. At a Free Sale, we all partake in the dual blessings of being charitable and being recipients of grace, as Paul says in his commendation of the Macedonian Christians, God dispenses grace to those who give, and joy for that grace to the recipients of charity.
We want you to know brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints -- and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5)
So, as I said, when I go to a Free Sale, I’m not sure who is the benefactor and who is the beneficiary -- because we all are both. And thinking through that conundrum is a very good exercise for God’s work of training me to be less impressed with my sense of self as a benefactor and more mindful of the benefits we all are to one another as members of the body of Christ.
Join me in giving and receiving blessing at the Three Rivers Free Sale on Saturday!