Summary: To move hearers and readers toward a life of giving, even when giving is uncomfortable or painful.
"Giving When It Hurts"
Near Mobile, Alabama there was a railroad bridge that spanned a big bayou. The date was September 22, 1993. It was a foggy morning just before daybreak when a tugboat accidentally pushed a barge into the bayou. The drifting barge slammed into the bridge. In the darkness no one could see the extent of the damage, but someone on the tugboat radioed the Coast Guard too inform them. Moments later an Amtrak train, the Sunset Limited, reached the bridge as it traveled from Los Angeles to Miami. Unaware of the damage, the train crossed the bridge at 70 mph. There were 210 passengers on board. As the weight of the train crossed the damaged support, the bridge gave away. Three locomotive units and the first four of train’s 8 passengers cars fell into the alligator infested bayou. The darkness and fog was thickened by fire and smoke. Six miles from land; the victims lay as food for the aroused alligators. Helicopters were called in to help rescue the survivors, which numbered 163 persons. The remainder of the 47 were drowned, eaten by the gator, or engulfed by the fire.
Although lives were lost there were many heroes in this tragic event, most notably Geray and Mary Chancey. Unfortunately, they did not receive a hero’s welcome home or award because in their rescue attempt, their lives were kidnapped by death. As they were waiting to get be rescued from the rail car they were in, the car shifted and filled rather quickly with water. So with little hesitation they both hewed their 11-year-old daughter who had cerepral palsy out of the window into the hands of a rescuer. Immediately they hugged each other and drowned in the water filled car. This was their last act of love, instead of getting out themselves; they chose to give their lives to save their child. Question! When was the last time you gave to save? Maybe you - like me- at times take the giving process for granted, but when have you gave to save? For many of us we usually give in order to get, whether it is to get people out of our face or to get folks to reciprocate or surpass that which we’ve given them, most usually give to get. I remember when I was dating this one girl; she was a fine sister, my very dream girl. Well, I gave her everything, what ever she wanted I went out of my way to get it - I mean I wined and dined her until I was broke as Red Foxx. I did everything for her but I realized that I was giving not so much because I wanted too but rather because I hoped she give me some things as well. But with leech like limbs, the more I gave the more she took and I realized at that point I should not give to get. One preacher I endured listening to, you do know there are some folks you enjoy and then others you endure. He abused one particular passage in a way that this phenomenon was perpetuated. He said, " if you give to God, he’ll give back unto you. If you give God dollars, he’ll give you dollars, if you give God tens and twenty’s he’ll give you tens and twenties, Oh but if you give God hundreds, my God will bless you with hundreds and even thousands!" In the end he stood on holy ground and pretentiously petitioned, " So what do you want, ones or hundreds,” people were sitting there amnestied in this presumptuous prophecy and in the end most of them were giving to get. I am convinced that this is not the right attitude in giving, but lest I be one dimensional, there is another extreme in giving and that is giving to be seen. This is what my grandfather in the ministry, Dr. A. Louis Patterson, would call the "Sin of Disposition, where you give but with the wrong character or frame of mind." Many times this type of giving is simply to say hey look at me, kind of like the man who stood up in church and said, "I want to give $1000 anonymously." It is all right to give when you can, but the question today is would you if you could not- when it is not as convenient? Yea, that is what I really want to know, can you give when it will hurt? Can you like the widow in our text, give all you have, to help others. Like this unnamed widow, will you sacrifice all for the extension of the kingdom? Can you give out of your scarcity instead of your surplus? Out of your poverty instead of prosperity? Seems this type of painful giving or self-emptying giving attracts the attention of the almighty. So let us explore this idea of painful giving, as it will unfold in three layers, the theology of giving, the tenacity of giving and types of giving.