I Think That I Shall Never See…

Tuesday Re-mix – this is a popular post from last year, updated and rerun for your consderation and comments.

I think that I shall never see…

…a Christian lovely as a tree (with apologies to Joyce Kilmer). The big, strong, deep rooted tree  is the image to which I am continuously drawn when I think of “growing” in a relationship with Christ. You know, the Psalm 1 “tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither.” It is the image of perfect health.

It is also the illustration we used  in our Sunday morning Bible Study (you can find us here) as we talked about the “Spiritual disciplines” of the Christian life.  One of the disciplines we studied was  the discipline of giving. Once again, just the preparation of the lesson alone brought me great conviction. Here is the passage that got me:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. II Corinthians 9:6-7

I was brought up in the church. I was taught about giving at a very early age. I have been a fairly faithful “giver” pretty much all of my adult life. I have done it in (very small) part as an act of worship, but much more so out of a sense of “it’s just the right thing to do”. I see it as a part of God’s economy. If God says it’s a good way to handle my finances, that’s enough for me. I saw Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments as a child, and God has had my attention ever since then, at least in most of the basic “how to live your life” ways. Giving back to God has always been, in my assessment, a wise way to live. So, that was my primary motive for giving: wisdom, keeping life simple, etc.

But now I’m seeing my giving in a different light. If I have purposed in my heart to love God and to demonstrate that love through generous giving, then and only then is there a promise to reap generously. This is not a promise for financial gain (that would be the shallowest of all possible interpretations of this promise). This is a promise of Spiritual gain. If I choose to give out of my relationship with God, i.e., joyful, extravagant love, then that relationship grows ever deeper and I have a much fuller understanding of the “discipline” of giving. Rather than giving out of a sense of obligation, or guilt, or a desire to be “wise” in God’s eyes, I should be giving out of my love and gratitude to God for not giving me the ugly consequences I deserve. Giving joyfully is the kind of giving that grows me in my relationship with God.

Reaping generously, at least to me, means sending my roots deep down into the river bank and growing daily to become that huge, beautiful, healthy tree described in Psalm 1. I have a very long way to go. But I love the image.

© Blake Coffee

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