Word association is a fantastic tool. It informs what you really think about a certain topic or idea.
So when someone says “give” or “giving,” what do you immediately think of?
Maybe it’s Christmas morning, when you were given the newest game system. Or maybe it’s that awkward three weeks of church every January when they put up PowerPoint slides filled with graphs and budget sheets and the pastor just seems sort of angry. Or if you’re like me (bad at giving presents), you think about standing in the middle of Walmart the day before your wife’s birthday, wondering how the next forty-eight hours are going to play out.
Our immediate, visceral reactions to the concept of giving reveal a ton about our hearts. If we’re honest, in the kingdom of Western culture, “giving” boils down to presents on special occasions and money. But Jesus invites us into the kingdom of God, where life is truly life, and giving is so much more than our small ideas about it.
What to Do with What We’ve Been Given
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a story about three servants who were entrusted with bags of gold by their master. Two of those servants stewarded the gift well by investing and multiplying their bags of gold, to which the master replied, “Well done!” The third servant decided not to take the risk of using the gift, and instead hoarded it for himself, to which the master replied, “You’re terrible and lazy!” (my rough paraphrase).
Jesus’ point is that all the gifts God gives us are to be invested for others—even though that can be scary and risky—and not hoarded for ourselves. And God doesn’t just give us money; he gives us food, homes, skills, talents, passions, time, emotions, and life itself. In the kingdom of God, where life is lived to the full, we discover that true joy and abundance are found not in occasionally giving, but in being a gift.
What We’ve Done with What We Have
A few years ago, our community of friends in Carbondale, Illinois, started asking the question, “How can our lives become a gift to our friends, our neighborhood, and our city?” We particularly wanted to bless our friends in the streets who had no homes and no food, and who needed the hope that can be found in Jesus. So we began to contemplate all God had given us: time, ability to listen, vehicles, empathy, resources, and a deep love for grilling out and having fun.
Here’s what we decided: instead of just giving money or dropping off food, we’d give these friends ourselves.
It started with throwing a grill onto the bed of a truck and taking a steak dinner celebration to the streets. We grilled, played bag-toss, blasted music, drank coffee and hot cocoa, and listened to the stories of our guests of honor. We started lasting friendships that eventually led us to help our friends survive the winter, visit them when they spent time in jail, and start our own daily dinner kitchen when they were starving.
Two of the women we met, Krysta and Roberta, were single mothers with newborns, so a few of the women in our community gave them rides to all of their infant doctor appointments and helped connect them to resources throughout the city, including free diapers and formula. We remember one night in particular in the middle of December when we got a call at 2 a.m. from Roberta asking for a ride to the emergency room. We spent the night in the hospital, where her three-week-old daughter was diagnosed with Respiratory Syncyvial Virus (RSV) and pneumonia and then was flown to St. Louis. By being present with Roberta, we were able to care for her and remind her of a God who cares more about her daughter than she does.
Even though giving ourselves was risky and difficult, and sharing life with our friends was often painful, we experienced the fullness of life. We discovered the truth of Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20: that it’s only in the place of self-forgetfulness that we discover deeper intimacy and fellowship with Jesus, the giver of abundant life.
What Will You Do?
We’re not asking you to give your money away. We’re not asking you to take all the clothes you haven’t worn in five years to the local Goodwill. We’re not asking you to serve one time at the local food pantry and call it enough for a year.
We’re daring you to give yourself away, and discover the fullness of life in the kingdom of God.
Lose your life to save it, because if you refuse to invest your life that God gave you, you’ll end up losing what you fought to preserve.
What is God calling you to do?
Live Life is a campaign, run in partnership with World Vision and International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, to bring college students and young adults around the world together to explore the meaning of “life in all its fullness” during the Easter/Lenten season. The campaign features six weekly challenges, stories of students making a difference from countries around the world, and a global sharing platform where each person can share how they are uniquely participating. The InterVarsity blog is participating by featuring corresponding posts each Sunday written by InterVarsity's Urban Projects directors.
To join others from more than 80 countries around the world and engage in giving of yourself in meaningful ways, go to worldvisionyouth.org.
After participating in God's mission and serving as leaders in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship while students at Southern Illinois University–Carbondale (SIUC), Lucas and Jayme were called by God in 2011 to stay in Carbondale as InterVarsity staff and give their lives to loving God, loving people, and making disciples at SIUC and in the Carbondale community.