Years ago, God prompted me to give away my favorite tie. I’m not lying. I was praying and God brought up my pride with my personal image. Fine God. What should I do?
I heard, “The tie.”
God knew that I knew which tie he meant. I gave the tie to my friend. It wasn’t exactly “selling my possessions and giving them to the poor” or “giving one of my extra coats to the poor” kind of obedience, but I at least gave something away that meant a lot to me. Did I mention how much I loved that tie?
Thankfully, I never have to wear ties for work or church anymore. That tie is a faded memory that I can no longer picture in my mind’s eye. How odd it is that something so important at one time is not even worthy of a simple memory years later. I have since been prompted to try other experiments in living like Jesus. You know, actually giving things away and making sacrifices and stuff. Heaven knows I’ve spent enough time whining about the stuff God needs to give me.
I figured I should try some actual obedience every now and then.
While praying one day, I started thinking about my shirts. I have a 5-7 shirt starting rotation. Some weeks it’s less than that.
With Ethan on the prowl with his spit up and pee, I sometimes have to dip into the farm team shirts that aren’t quite ready for the big leagues. Still, looking at my closet that afternoon, I realized that I had plenty more shirts than I really needed.
That’s when the thought hit me: he who has two shirts, should give to him who has none.
It’s not like there are tons of shirtless guys my size wandering our neighborhood, wishing someone would give them a shirt. If they are shirtless, they usually have much larger muscles than I and would punch me if a little dweeby evangelical offered them an extra shirt.
However, we do have a thriving little community center that meets real needs among the poor in our area. It’s a few blocks over, and I decided that it was time to take action.
While I can usually get away with stalling or pleading with God for more time because the donation center is so far away, I had no excuses. I could clear out half of my shirts right then and there, haul them over to the community center, and then spend the rest of the afternoon deconstructing whether I’d actually obeyed the teachings of John the Baptist about generosity.
I’m not a math genius, but I figured that I had about 16 different kinds of shirts (mind you, I pick up a good many of these shirts at thrift stores). So working with John’s formula, the guy with 16 shirts should at least be willing to part with 8 of them, right? Game time.
Although we don’t have a television in our home, I’ve happened upon enough home improvement shows in public places to know how these little projects work. You don’t pick and choose from your closet what you’re giving away. You take everything out and then only put back what you want to keep.
It almost worked.
I got it down to 7 shirts. Not exactly a banner day in the Kingdom of God, but grabbing a few other coats and shoes to make up for my shortfall, I walked over with a few bags and dropped them off.
I don’t think John necessarily gave us a formula for generosity. I know I’m not where Jesus really wants me to be with my approach to owning stuff and giving away what I can. However, there was something exhilarating about sensing that God was tugging at my heart to practice generosity a bit more and then doing something—even doing it badly.
Did you catch the word PRACTICE in that sentence?
In so many things, we are “practicing” obedience to God as works in progress. The biggest problem comes when we stop practicing and either start doing our own things or mistake our “practices” as our final destinations—ruling out the next nudge from God to take our games to the next level.
Photo cc by dansays on Flickr.