Pastoral Perspectives

The Heart Of Giving

Not too long ago, you may have noticed that there was a collection booth set up by the Boys’ Brigade (BB) at various NTUC Fairprice Supermarkets for the donation of food and household items. In addition, there is also a collection tin for cash donation and this year BB has even gone cashless so that donors can give money virtually by simply scanning the PayNow QR code printed on the tins. This latest initiative of the BB Share-a-Gift Project is an effort to move cash donations online, in the hope that it will enable them to reach out to a bigger base of donors.

More importantly, over the years, the organisers have sought to encourage people to go beyond purely financial giving to make the extra effort to purchase and deliver these items. As a community service project which started in 1988 to promote the spirit of caring and sharing amongst the local community during the Christmas season, the BB is to be commended for going in the right direction when it comes to how one’s giving can truly make a difference. Indeed, as the BB has come to learn, what matters even more to the beneficiaries of this project is not just the food hampers that they receive but the thoughtfulness that goes behind the gift and the personal interaction with those who delivered the gift.

As God’s people, I trust that we can also learn to give greater thought whenever we give to others. For starters, it will certainly help that we refrain from giving what we do not want or need. Although there may be occasions when it is about exercising good stewardship, it is needful that we examine our motivation such that we are not merely doing this as an afterthought or as a convenient way of dumping things on people. Indeed, it is rather unfortunate that on various occasions we get to hear about the unpleasant experience and man-hours that staff from The Salvation Army and Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) have to spend to help sort and dispose those “donations” which are in disrepair or already passed their expiry dates.

Rather than expecting the needy not be so choosy about second-hand items, I believe Christians can learn to be more generous and bless others with what is new. For example, instead of just giving away the old toys that your children are no longer playing with, we can train our children from young to be big-hearted and not hoard all their Christmas gifts. In other words, they can learn to do with less by deciding to keep perhaps two or three gifts and giving away the rest even when these gifts are also desirable to them. Another possibility would be to involve our extended family members whom we know are likely to give gifts to our children. We could request them to give to a designated charity that you have decided beforehand with your child instead of having them spending that money on their nephews or nieces.

When it comes to giving, we should strive to understand what others need. While Milo drinks and Quaker oats biscuits used to be the standard fare for many of the elderly recipients, most Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) these days have also learnt to be more discerning with their giving. After all, it can be quite a damper for the recipients to have a food hamper filled with items that they do not need or want. While we may joke about the sock or mug that we received at our workplace’s Christmas gift-exchange, it is quite a different matter for an elderly who due to his health concerns must avoid some of those food items he has received. In a situation like this, it is no longer about how “it is the thought that counts” rather than the actual value of the gift. If anything, more thought should be put into the gift.

Hopefully, more of us will make time to learn and understand the issues or get to know an individual better and build relationships instead of just dropping loose change whenever we come across a collection tin. Sometimes, what a person need is just a listening ear, an encouraging word or a helpful hand with the chores.

When it comes to giving, we praise God that God is the ultimate giver. God gave of himself personally rather than through a mediator or messenger. Through the giving of his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, we know that God gave out of love not obligation. God gave lavishly and sacrificially because He knew what we truly need even when we ourselves do not know nor deserve it.

As the Apostle John exhorted us “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him. Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:16-18).

As much as Christmas has just passed, we do not have to wait for another year to give unto others. After all, if Christmas has already happened in our hearts, surely there will be a lot more giving throughout the year to the glory of God’s name and the delight of all who receive from us.

Rev Edwin Wong

December 30, 2018