I would normally give away my old clothes when I didn't need them anymore. Or I would donate to charity, but mainly at the end of the financial year, when spare cash is available and I could look forward to reducing my tax!
Mother Theresa said: "Giving is not giving unless you need it."
I guess I wasn't 'giving' then! Because I didn't need those clothes or cash when I gave them.
Faith puts 'giving' into a new perspective! I realised that what has been entrusted to me has never really been mine. It is just lent to me (us) in this life. In fact, I am given a life-long test when it comes to 'giving'.
In Luke 16:19-31, the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus explains this life-long test very well. The Rich Man saw Lazarus begging at his door and did nothing. Even dogs took pity on Lazarus but the Rich Man ignored him. In this life, Lazarus wasn't dealt the best hand. He was sick and poverty-stricken. Yet, in the next life he was rewarded for his suffering. On the other hand, the Rich Man did not take any of his wealth or the pleasures it could buy to the hereafter! The situation was reversed and he had to beg.
Faith turns the normal way upside down. What used to be extremely confusing starts to make sense.
When I became aware that my life has purpose and are part of God's plan for me, every day starts to have a very specific taste, a special fragrance, its own unique music. Each day becomes a blessing and another opportunity to feel God's unbelievable Love. His Love is real for me (and each and every one of us), no matter who we are, no matter where we live.
Whether we feel we deserve it or not, it is there anyway. God's love is unconditional.
We do nothing to deserve it. It is pure Grace.
Along with the words Truth, Spirit, Righteousness, Love, Life, Joy and Faith, Grace is one of the most frequently-mentioned concepts in the Bible: nearly 150 times in the New Testament alone. Paul was responsible for about 100 of these.
In the New Testament it is the translation of the Greek word charis which is the origin of the word 'charity'. In the Old Testament, Grace is a translation of a Hebrew word root meaning favour.
Historically, Grace has been an issue dividing Christians. According to theologian Charles C. Ryrie, Grace is "the watershed that divides Catholicism from Protestantism". Many Catholics believe that Grace can only come through the sacraments whereas most Protestants do not.
One of the most crucial disagreements within the Catholic Church which resulted in the Protestant Reformation was over Grace. Pope Clement VI, in the fourteenth century, decreed that believers could increase their store of sanctified grace by acts of piety. In other words, they could buy their way into Heaven!
One of the most common of these acts of piety was indulgences. Believers could pay an indulgence to the Church to see artefacts or remains of saints or to have their sins blotted out!
It seemed that the Roman Church had a treasury full of grace which was more than enough to get God's faithful servants to Heaven. Ironically, Grace didn't come free. God might have given it free to the Church but it was only to be dispensed under special conditions. The Roman Church of the time was willing to exchange their surplus of grace for earthly gold!
When I (we) act as if I (we) need to do something to 'earn' God's favour, we behave in just the same way. When we try to bargain with God for his love, when we promise to do something for him 'if only' he'll do something for us, we act just like that money-minded Pope.
Grace comes from God; it is most evident when he saves us. Once God has touched us with the offer of the gift of salvation, we have – like the Rich Man in the story of Lazarus – only limited opportunities to accept or reject it.
Romans 10:18 - "But I say, have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the end of world."