Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Finding joy in giving

I’ve been busy with some reading from the book of Deuteronomy (just slightly more interesting than reading from the book of Lamentations – or so I thought!) We had a professor in Old Testament when I was still busy with my theological studies who really helped us to focus on these seemingly uninteresting parts of the Bible to find out why God had wanted these parts to be written. I was focussing on chapters 24 – 26 and it was just amazing once again to realise how much God cares for the poor and the destitute. Some of the laws God made sounds really crazy. If a poor man offers you his cloak as a pledge after borrowing something from you, you may keep the cloak up to sunset but then you have to return it to him so that he can sleep in it! Why do you take the cloak in the first place if you are going to return it in any case? Because by returning it, “it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the LORD your God” (24:13). If you hire a poor man to work for you, make sure that he receives his wages daily before sunset. He’s dependent upon that money to live. When beating the olive trees to harvest olives, do it only once and whatever is left belongs to the poor, the orphans and the widows.
The motivation for this gracious conduct lies in the fact that the Israelites were ill-treated in Egypt and that God had saved them from the Egyptians. Therefore they also had to live graciously towards others and allow them to live with dignity. And in doing this, we discover the true source of joy in our lives.
I realise that I write a lot about the joy we’ve experienced in Swaziland since we started with our home-based caring projects. But things were not always like this and in fact, there are still people in our church who have not made this paradigm shift in their lives. The amazing thing is to see how people change once they start focussing outside of themselves. It is as if they get a new meaning in life (which in fact, they do) and this new life which they have discovered brings them true joy.
When a Christian really starts focussing on the needs of others and witness the joy that it brings into those people’s lives, it becomes impossible not to be filled with joy because of the joy that the others experience. We know that Acts 20:35 says that “it is more blessed to give than to receive”, but for most people, Christians (and churches) included it sounds far-fetched. And yet, every person involved in helping the helpless will know that this is indeed the truth. True joy is found when we learn to focus outside ourselves.
This was our experience in Swaziland as well.

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Monday, March 17, 2008 - Posted by | Church, Giving, Grace, Home-based Caring, Mission, Poverty

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