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Something that Phil and I discussed later in the evening, after tonight’s talk had ended, was what it means to give and act responsibly. Let us start out with the premise that it is best to act responsibly whenever possible. Our first question quickly becomes, what does it mean to act in a responsible manner? Different people will have different answers, but I suspect that the majority of us could find some consensus on its meaning, that is, to make good choices.

What is problematic, though, are the reasons for the choices that we make when it comes to responsible judgments and actions. I can choose to be responsible in a given situation, but is it really for the sake of responsibility? Let us give an example: There is a homeless man begging for money on the street–two obvious responses are as follows: to give or not to give. In the case of the latter, a reason for not giving may be a belief (justifiable or not) that the homeless person will spend the money unwisely, thus making him undeserving of one’s charity.

Jesus addresses this situation in a peculiar fashion, one that is often overlooked when discussing the merits of charitable given. In Luke 6, Jesus compels us to give alms (to the poor) without reservation, and to lend to people without any expectation of being repaid. Jesus gives us an example of charity that is, by any standard definition, irresponsible. In our world, we do not lend to people who cannot pay a loan back. And we often withhold money from the poor for fear of how they may use it.

Perhaps the most difficult part of giving is understanding its motivations. I believe that Jesus is not simply giving us an example of giving that is by definition “irresponsible”, but is encouraging us to examine the reasons behind why we give (or do not give). Do we give only because it is convenient, only in situations where we feel we can control its outcome or direct it towards some desired effect? Ultimately, the definition of responsibility is tied to some cultural expectation, some meaning that is connected to more than just a religious perspective. I believe Jesus gives us an example of giving that goes beyond some merely human idea of what it means to be responsible, an example that at its core is not tied to either an idea of responsibility or irresponsibility, but is tied to the very heart of the matter; why we give and ultimately to whom we believe we are giving.

This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. John says:

    Prior Comments:

    RYAN A.: 06-08-2009

    I would have to agree with Jeremy on this point. I was a little disturbed at the fact it felt like last nights comments were consistently more about ways or excuses to not give. Let’s face it I think that everyone of could think of a good reason to not give something. I think putting perspective into things is important and in all reality what we have been given on this Earth is from God in the first place and it is not our money. So I think standing on that reason alone a logical decision when it come to (to give or to not give) giving would be the wise choice. I myself have not mastered the art of giving but I continue to strive to have a heart for the people who have less then I. So that one day when I stand before God I am not telling him a bunch of reasons why I didn’t give but instead I am telling a him bunch of reasons why I did.

    JOHN: 06-20-2009

    Jeremy’s observation about Jesus’ peculiar approach to responsibility is also illustrated in the parable of the seeds and the sower (Matt. 13). While it is not speaking about money, that parable evidences a similar lack of concern about responsibility when Jesus modeled how we are to steward the seed (God’s word). A “responsible” sower would only sow seed in the good soil, carefully plowing and planting the ground where the seed would surely grow. In Jesus’ parable, however, the sower is reckless in his generosity, sowing the seed everywhere, including places that any first century sower would know it could not grow (on the road, in the rocky soil, or among the thorns).

    I’m not advocating that we become unwise in our giving. It is clearly commended in the parable of the talents (Matt 25), where the one who produces the greatest return is the one most rewarded. But restraint and pietous concern for how we give is mostly an uptight Western idea that is otherwise absent from the teachings of Jesus. When Jesus used the words “wise” and “steward” near each other, it was in the context of a steward accomplishing the master’s purposes, as opposed to using all of the resources for him or herself. Since we are often guilty of exactly that (spending the entirety of the resources entrusted to us by God on ourselves), it seems strange that we become so conscientious with the few dollars we do give away.

    Jesus repeatedly demonstrated an unbridled generosity. We would do well to adopt that same attitude.

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