Weekly Reflection: Mindful Giving

Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.
II Corinthians 9:7–8 (NRSV)

Years ago, our church decided to launch Rice & Beans Month with a free lunch for the entire church family after our morning worship service. Volunteers prepared twelve different dishes featuring rice and beans. Beside each dish we placed simple recipe cards that included the name of the dish, the ingredients, and how to prepare it at home.

In American culture, we are not used to eating rice and beans as staple foods. It is a challenge to adjust to eating this common meal in solidarity with our East African brothers and sisters. However, for our plates to more accurately resemble theirs, our dietary changes would have to be even more drastic. 

For many years my family lived and ministered in a village on the South Coast of Kenya. Most of the people we knew often had only rice or beans, not both in the same meal. The rice would have small bits of stone, sticks, and dirt mixed in and the beans would be holey with worms or weevils or some other insect that beat me to my dinner.

Our friends rinsed the uncooked rice like they were panning for gold, swirling it in a dish until the rocks self-identified and could be carefully picked out. The raw beans were tossed in the air from a flat basket to allow leaves and other light material to blow away in the breeze. The beans were then soaked in water. Dead little black bugs floated to the top and were easily skimmed off.

Even after the meal was cooked and served, we still gently gummed the rice, knowing that hard chewing might cause a tooth to crack on a rock that slipped through quality control. And we squinted or looked sideways when we got fingers (no spoons) full of beans to our mouths. Sometimes it was just better not to clearly see what we were eating.

Thankfully, it is extremely rare to find dirt or bugs in my food here in America. But they are still present. Where? They resurface in my thoughts. The “dirt and bugs” are in my mind, not on my plate. The “dirt” on me is that I don’t like sharing what is mine with a stranger. And I am “bugged” by having to alter my dietary choices day after day. Perhaps these struggles offer a clue as to why today’s verses instruct us to settle the matter of generous giving in our minds. 

The tension between selfishness and sharing is part of this journey, exposing my need for grace. After my mind has been set on sharing, I can cheerfully give to others and receive God’s blessings in abundance. With God’s help, may it be so.

by Tom Smith, pastor of Silverton First Baptist Church in Silverton, Oregon


God, teach us to be content with less, so that we have more to share with those in need. May our lives reflect the life of Jesus, who “was rich, yet for our sakes became poor.” May we embrace the words of Paul: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Amen.