The Joy of Giving
- Author: Mark Quade is an independent stewardship consultant.
- Updated: 12/11/2012
- Copyright: Salt Seasonings v03.12
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Mark Quade reflects on Christmas and tells the story about he, as a 12-year-old, and found and returned a wallet that contained a large sum of cash. The recipient was full of gratitude and Mark experienced the joy of giving.
The Joy of Giving
Reflection by Mark Quade
ELCA Salt Stewardship Specialist
As I contemplate Christmas, I go back to my childhood. I remember something that happened to me that, at the time, didn't seem like a big deal. But in retrospect it has grown inside my vault of memories to become a defining moment in my life.
I think I was about twelve years old. One day as I was rambling around our small town Wisconsin neighborhood, I found a wallet lying on the sidewalk. Of course I stopped to pick it up, and as I opened it to discover what treasures it might contain, "what to my wondering eyes should appear" but a large sum of money. Even in today's inflated economy it would be a significant amount, but imagine the thoughts that ran through the mind of a young boy who got less than a dollar a week in allowance.
My mind raced as I held my unexpected windfall. What should I do? Temptation loomed large. Oh what I could do with this money! My heart was pounding as I dove further into the wallet to see if I could find out who was missing this stash of money. Among the usual wallet cards and papers, I did find the owner's ID. It turns out I knew the person it belonged to: Tom, a high school jock several years older, and a very popular kid. I didn't know him well, just kind of admired him from afar. He certainly didn't know who I was. I do remember wondering what he was doing with all this money.
After a few more financial fantasies, I went home and rang him up on the phone. I explained that I had his wallet and he could come to come and pick it up. And here's where this defining moment happens, remembered all these years later as one of life's enduring lessons. He was extremely grateful. Not only for the fact that I'd found it, but that I'd actually offered to return it to him intact. He exuded thanks. He offered a reward. I remember his words: You've given me an early Christmas present." His gratitude certainly wasn't lost on me, but it hadn't occurred to me that this was any kind of a "present." After all, I was just returning to him what was his in the first place. Perhaps naively I declined a reward, and mumbled something about the Golden Rule, feeling pretty full of myself that I could come up with something so profound.
As I replayed the afternoon's events, I knew I had done the right thing, and an uncommon sense of joy came over me. A new "joy of giving" had been stamped indelibly on my psyche. And now, many years later, Jesus' admonishment of how we are to treat others, as recorded in Luke, echoes through the halls of my memory: "...for the measure you give will be the measure you get back."
God lovingly gave his only Son as a redeeming gift to the world so that all would be saved, and thus we celebrate Christmas. That single act defines the joy of giving for us. Unselfish and unconditional. Full of grace.
At this time of year, we are filled with renewed awe and wonder. This greatest gift of all inspires us to emulate it in some way with our own generosity.
This Christmas, let us resolve to give freely of ourselves. When we give to others, we give to God. Acting as God's children, we put to use what was never really ours. There is no greater joy!
May you know the joy of giving in Christ, this Christmas and always.
- When have you felt the joy of giving? How can you share this feeling with someone else?
- During the holiday season, in what circumstances do you find joy in giving?
- What special giving opportunities are you looking forward to the most this year?
- Where do you think Jesus would find the joy of giving in the way we celebrate his birthday? How do you know?
- Why do you give Christmas presents?
- What are you "giving Jesus" for Christmas this year?
From Salt Seasonings, December 2003
Copyright © 2003 by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 8765 West Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631. Any part of Salt Seasonings can be reproduced for local use with attribution.