In Italian families it's customary to give, but if you're like me you know that there is a catch to this giving. No matter what they do for you, you are sure to hear about it later. Growing up this way, I was a bit jaded once I accepted Christ. I'd hear things like "it is more blessed to give than to receive," or "sharing shares the joy" and I'd think to myself cynically that it's just one of those sentences that people say to make themsevles feel better. Giving always came with a catch, a by line, fine print.

I see it in another subtle way in the church. I've heard people remark that they don't want to tithe because they don't know where that money goes. And we've all heard the "I don't want to give that beggar money because he'll just go buy drugs." Heck, I've even heard people say of friends that they "didn't want to invest their time in a person if the friendship wouldn't be long term or fruitful." And I'll be honest, I've felt this way. I've given someone in need funds and then judged how they spent their money. I've wanted validation, recognition, and deeper friendship in return for gifts. And I wonder to myself what makes people, including me, feel like they have to dictate how someone accepts gifts and what they should do with it. . There's surely no joy in that kind of giving.

I think it all comes back to freedom. We're afraid that what we gave, whether it's money, time, forgiveness or energy will be misused in some way. We're afraid and so we try to control what we ultimately cannot. See, when we're truly free and whole people as God meant us to be, we're also free to give to others without expecting anything in return. Instead of giving and expecting something back, we're free to give to simply bless others. We no longer linger on what they'll do with it or whether it was worth it.

Let me tell you a secret, it's always worth it. See God gives everyday, His forgiveness, His mercy, His blessings, and sometimes, let's be honest here, we squander it. I know I do. Every day I foul up, I mess up, I fail. But God's mercies are new every morning. That's how we should give. There are surely times where boundaries are in need, and there is something to be said about being faithful in the small things to receive the greater. But I'm talking about just blessing someone; opening your home if you have an extra room, lending an ear to someone who might need it, handing a check to the friend you know is in need, cooking dinner for the woman next door who's a bit harried with a new child.

Once you're free to give without expecting anything, it truly does become a blessing and a joy. Listen to that preschool teacher who says sharing is fun, because you know, it really is. There's a scene in Paris, Je t'aime where a woman saves for years to finally come to Paris to visit. It's her dream but amidst all the beauty she turns to the side as if to tell the person next to her how beautiful it is, and realizes that she is alone. Her face saddens and the scene fades, because even though she's in one of the most beautiful places on earth, she has no one to share it with. Blessings are so much more enjoyed with others.

Whatever God has blessed you with, I encourage you to find a way to share it, whether that's money, a house, time, or energy. Whatever it is, share it! Use it! Life is so much more beautiful that way.


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