The last category is the hardest for me to wrestle with though: beggars. It's complicated. Half the time, I honestly have nothing to give, but because of this, I feel cheap or like they'll think I'm lying if I tell that to them. So rather than disappoint, I ignore. Or, and I'm not sure if this is better or worse, I give a little half smile as I walk by, gazing anywhere but the elephant in the room that is the obvious difference in our socioeconomic status. If they address me, I'll tell them the truth - or if I do have something to give I'll give it. I'll be kind, smile, shake a hand, ask a name. But the truth is, most of the time I avoid this predicament. There may be the slightest tint of "love" in my action, but to be honest, my heart is lacking.
But I don't really want to get at the heart in this issue. This blog entry is not about the heart. I love the heart, I love talking about heart issues, the heart of issues, and could journal for pages about our hearts. No, I'm going to write about something that's harder for me, and depending on who you are, may be harder for you: the practical, topical, action-oriented side of this issue. Because, the truth is, the reason I don't have money for the homeless I see - and consequently ignore them - is not because I'm such a helpless starving student. It's because I don't see my finances in the correct light such that I plan to have the kind of margin that allows for open generosity. It's not necessarily, I just can't afford that, it's more poignantly stated as I have not planned to afford that.
So where does that put us? Is that a provocative statement? It's true, Paul tells us to give to others according to what we have, not according to what we don't have. It doesn't make sense for me to go deeper into debt to appease my guilt - that doesn't glorify God with my finances (or with my heart). What glorifies God is the daily diligence, planning, frugality, proper perspective about what I need and what I can do without, and yes, generosity. I guess I can't avoid the heart, because financial issues are ultimately heart issues. I don't plan with my finances because I value my own whims more, bluntly stated. And I'm using a lot of "I's" in this narrative because I'm illustrating this point from my own experience. But please understand that when I say I do something, I am also implicitly questioning whether you do too. Think about it.
To condense the idea: God calls us to be generous. In fact, Jesus talks a lot about money, rumor has it about 25% of the time. We can't tithe, and then be irresponsible with the other 90% and say we are still glorifying God with our money. We just can't. At the heart of it, do you recognize what you need and do you live sacrificially, planning to have margin for spontaneous generosity? Do you legitimately recognize the needs of others as valid? Valid enough to change the way you organize the books?
I am just as challenged in this, rest assured. With graduation sprinting closer, and a tighter financial situation than anticipated, I have done some serious number crunching and unprecedented planning about how my money needs to be spent (and how it doesn't need to be spent) in order to have integrity with my finances. In my case, that includes paying off credit card debt, generating a savings, and creating a margin so that there is ample room to give to needs that arise in community or elsewhere. It quite honestly means sucking it up and not endeavoring to live beyond my means. If my budget is modest, then I must too be modest. It means making the money stretch, getting over my momentary superfluous desires, and learning some very real discipline. It means eating beans and rice (and maybe some quinoa :). It means not getting something every time friends want to eat out. It means inviting people over instead of inviting them to coffee. It means buying (gasp!) generic. It means Goodwill hunting (no pun intended). It means being creative and being consistent. All of this with Jesus and with others in mind. I, as a Christian - We as Christians - cannot afford to treat our finances as if they are ours to play with.
More on this to come I think.
p.s. This song was on when I very first started typing this blog entry...and I like it for this.