by Bec Oates
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
I’d rather give you 50 bucks than bake a cake.
At least, that was my first thought when I heard my daughter’s class was doing a bake sale. I don’t always want to give of my time, and the idea of outsourcing my generosity to people who like baking is quite appealing. Figuring out how, where, and what to give can be tricky. It’s sometimes quicker to write a check for the bake sale or my tithe to the church and be done with it than to wrestle with questions about generosity.
But then I think about what I learned from a brave woman in the red light area of Kolkata, India, who taught me how to live in the freedom of generosity. This woman had known unimaginable oppression and injustice as she was sold into slavery at the age of 13. Well into her forties when I met her, she and her four friends finally found freedom from slavery when they received jobs that enabled them to flourish.
These women lived in a tight knit community and word spread that employment making bags was available. When they started at their new job, though, resources were tight so only the five women could be employed. Their friend, a sixth woman who was not employed, joined in the work anyway!
The business managers let her know that there were not enough resources to pay her and that she really couldn’t just turn up to work. She said she understood and left, but then the next day she’d return. She came back day after day, perhaps because this kind of work—even without a salary—was better than returning to her life of oppression.
One month in, the five women received their very first pay packet, a living wage for the first time in their life after years in captivity. The five friends were so excited, they promptly sat down in a circle and dumped the contents of their pay packets into a pile in the centre. They then divided their five pay packets into six portions so that they could share it with their friend who was still trapped in a life she did not choose.
They showed me what living in the Kingdom of heaven looks like, when, at the very first chance to be close fisted with their money, they chose to live in the freedom of generosity and share what they had with their friend in need.
Their generosity was a natural extension of their relationship; it was not a box to tick. They just loved each other with actions and in truth. They didn’t sit and argue about whether they should give 10 percent of their salary before or after tax; they didn’t even quarantine their giving to the local church. They saw a need; they saw injustice and they were generous with what they had been given.
I’m forever grateful for the reminder that we follow a loving God who created us to live in community and to live in the freedom of generosity that he paid for with his life. As Jesus taught us, ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’-- John 13:35
Avoiding a bake sale, ticking a box with my tithe, or outsourcing my generosity misses the point. We live a shallow existence if we reduce our generosity to a box to tick.
We live a rich and fulfilling life when we reach out in faith, let go of our fear and embrace one another, whether as we give to others in need or to those who care for them, through the church or an aid organisation. Even if we give one time to a disaster appeal, a monthly church tithe or some other ministry advocating for justice, God’s generosity to us should spill over to others.
And when we fight for those who are suffering injustice, when we share with our friend a portion of what we’ve received, when we love one another, we experience the fullness of life that God intends.
God’s Kingdom comes. Or as 1 John 3:16-18 says: ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth."
So the next time I hear about a bake sale at my daughter’s school, I hope to wrestle less and give more. Even if it means baking a cake.
Bec Oates is an author living in Sydney. She leads a fabulous team in marketing and communication at Baptist World Aid Australia, which she reckons everyone should give to because: Baptist World Aid Australia works in 81 projects, with 36 local Christian partners, in 20 countries, reaching 55k+ households & 330K+ children.
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