Growing up on a fishing resort meant meeting people from all walks of life. It was a fascinating way to learn about beliefs and values of others. One year a family stayed there while the husband did construction work nearby. The mom was deeply religious. I remember her telling me the reason to be generous in our giving was because anything we gave to God, would be returned seven times over financially. She fully expected her giving to be multiplied and returned in cash. She also believed there was a cause and effect for anything that happened to her in life. She made a point of passing that message on to her son.
Billy was a rambunctious eight year old with red hair and freckles. As he explored an unfamiliar place he managed to bang himself up almost every day. Each time something happened to Billy, his mom would point out why. When he skinned his knee, she would say, “That’s because you didn’t make your bed this morning.” When he got a fish hook stuck in his finger, it was because, “You talked back to me.” Every bump, every bruise, every cut, every sickness was caused by something his mother would label sin.
I’ve often wondered what became of Billy. I think of what a heavy burden his mom placed on him as he went through life. I hope he learned that God is a God of grace who is far more interested in his well being, than punishing him for every mistake he makes. I hope he discovered God’s love for him is deep and real. I hope he learned that God’s blessing and goodness are not based on his own giving, but on God’s compassion and love. And I hope he learned to be generous himself, not for what he might get back financially, but because the gift of generosity is a joy in itself.
“God loves a cheerful giver.” II Corinthians 9:7b