The fine art of giving

This was a great day. I was the speaker at the Kingdom Building Conference held by the Good News Ministries church here in Americus. This is a small church that has given money to sponsor a house for five years now, the most recent two or three in Nigeria. I’m working on their pastor, Bishop Wallace, to go there with a Global Builders work team (the first GB trip to Nigeria will happen this summer).

I spoke a good deal about Africa, a place that has become dear to my heart. I never had much interest in traveling there, but since my first trip three years ago I’ve gotten hooked. I hope to travel back to the Congos later this summer. It’s a compelling place.

Most of my talk was about the fine art of giving. This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. We periodically get asked about why we have the beneficiary families help with the construction and then pay for the house. Some feel this isn’t quite Christian.

I don’t think that way. There are times, surely, when people need to be outright given something—after natural disasters, for example. But I’ve come to believe that outright giving is generally not respectful of the recipient of the gift.

Let me explain. In any giving circumstance there are two parties, the giver and the receiver. By definition the giver has more than the receiver, which is why he or she is in a position to give. But living, as we do, in a world where a person’s value is too much tied to material success, a giving situation places the giver above the receiver. Most of the families we build with have been pretty well beaten down by life; they know that they somehow rank lower on some scale than those who give to them. And it is in this that outright giving works to the detriment of the recipient. This sort of giving seems to affirm the lower status of the recipient and denies dignity.

For a better way we only need to look to the ministry of Jesus Christ. Repeatedly He was called on to heal the lame, the blind, and the infirm. Not once, though, did He take personal credit for the gift He had given. In every case He follows the healing by the words, “Your faith has made you whole”. In every case He not only heals the infirmity, He restores dignity to the previously infirm. It is astounding, really, that this man, who stood above all other men, would ascribe His gift to the one who received it.

This is the model we seek to follow at The Fuller Center for Housing. We aren’t lifting people out of poverty housing; we’re providing them with the tools to lift themselves out. By helping to build their house the family learns that they can do what they didn’t know they could do. By paying for the house the family moves from being receivers to being donors. Their payment help build houses for other families in need. What a great concept!

So the good folks at Good News Ministries know that they are giving artfully, they are giving in a way that will build dignity, not diminish it. They are true partners in this important work.

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