It's important this time of year in most Christian denominations in America to talk about giving. Pledge campaigns, drafts of operating budgets, contribution statements all take a turn this time of year. But the kind of giving I'm thinking of has only a little to do with these fiscal concerns.
Think of Jesus' instructions from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Down in verse 38 and following he says,
"38 ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.This kind of giver has a different appreciation for things and a different appreciation for his or her self. Their giving is not because that they possess great wealth or have been particularly blessed with possessions. Their "giving" comes from an obedience to God that does not value self or one's possessions as much it values witnessing to the obedience itself.
Perhaps "obedience" needs some attention. It means so much more than rule bound adherence to instructions or authority. Here it means something more like loyalty to or faith in God, or more like reliance on the capacity of God to be God in the way that God has promised to be God.
Our appreciations for things like obedience, giving or forgiving are often too small and by way of that diminution incapable of expressing the greater truths we are called to proclaim. If obedience is limited to rule keeping then we reduce God to something less than the source of all love. If giving means distributing symbolically out of our possessions then we interfere with God's already having provided enough for us all. If forgiving is limited to a transactional balancing of accounts then we reduce the benefit of God's omnipresence and mercy for all sinners.
The kind of giver I'm talking about does indeed contribute significantly to a parish budget, makes pledges and keeps them, and gives so that things like outreach never lag but there's more.
Giving as an expression of loyalty and trust in God as described in Matthew 5:38f sees the needs of others first, even the needs of those with power to sue or demand our services. But let's be smart and understand what really is needed. It's not the cloak being carried or one being taken by some legal demand.
The need is loyalty to God, trust in God, faith. Otherwise there'd be no demand for the cloak to be carried the first mile. In a world where we all trust God another cloak would be waiting for them at the end of that mile, carried or not! In a world of obedience there's no shame when one's face is slapped, instead compassion for the one who is deluded into thinking that their power to slap wins anything of value for them.
In a world of faithful obedience to the God who is always with us, giving has a value higher than any possession or position. We should all be that kind of giver.