To Give or Not to Give

Download audio


Authored by Tina Kapp

Mahatma Gandhi1 once said, “The world provides enough for every man’s need but not for every man’s greed.” Sometimes it’s easy to agree with proclamations of world peace and say things like, “The rich should really give to the poor and solve world hunger!” However, when the giving strikes closer to home, it can be tougher than we think.

I once had a watch that I thought was seriously cool. It was a boy’s watch, but I didn’t mind; it had all the dials and gadgets you could want. I visited my family and my younger brother was crazy about my watch and asked if he could have it. I told him I couldn’t possibly part with such amazingness and sadly left it at that. Shortly after getting home, my treasured watch met with an accident and broke. It was then that I realized how stupid it was that I’d missed the opportunity to give it to my little brother, who was so much more important to me than that watch ever could be. It might not have lasted him forever either, but at least he would have been happy for a while. And more than the watch, the meaning behind my giving him something special would have stuck with him so much longer.

I try to remember that incident whenever I’m tempted to be selfish with my things or start to prize them too highly. It’s great to have nice things and groovy gadgets. (Don’t tell anyone, but I’m fairly addicted to my phone, which contains all my appointments, mail, reminders, to-do lists, Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, Google, and favorite games.) These days, the “must-have” gadgets are endless—from smartphones, iPads, laptops, and gaming equipment right down to 3D home TVs! If you’re able to have some of these nice things and enjoy them and they help you with your work and studies, or are also a fun source of entertainment, technology can be great. But it’s good to step back sometimes and imagine what it would be like if one day all those things instantly disappeared. After your initial withdrawal symptoms, you’d realize that life goes on without material things. What matters most are our loved ones—our friends and family members. Sometimes we can forget this truth, and that’s when we tend to act selfishly.

The act of giving not only helps those we give to, but us as well. Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you.”2 Sometimes what you get back will be something tangible, such as the Lord supplying things you need or someone giving to you, but more often than not what you receive in return is the satisfaction that you did something good. Have you ever given someone something they really needed or wanted and watched their face light up? It’s an amazing feeling!

An old American movie from the 1930s called The Man Who Played God is about a concert pianist who lost his hearing in a bomb explosion. He finally got through his depression when he learned how to read lips. He’d watch people in Central Park (New York City), where they’d talk about their problems and troubles, and he would do what he could to solve their problems anonymously. I think it would be amazing to do something like that, to know what other people need and be able to secretly give it to them.

There is a cute kids’ song that one or two of you may have heard when you were knee high to a grasshopper, called, “I’d Like to Be Invisible.” The singer wishes he was invisible so that he could “spread love everywhere, and help in secret ways without you knowing he was there.” (Yup, it even rhymed!) The truest part of the song, though, is where it concludes that you don’t have to be invisible, because you can do things to make a difference all around you. You can make it a point to look for where the need is and do what you can to fill it.

That’s when the crunch comes. That’s when it gets a bit closer to home. Like the two farmers named Billy and Bob who were chatting after a church service on the topic of giving. Billy asked

Bob, “If you had 100 cows, would you give 50 of them to the Lord?”

Bob replied, “Of course I would!”

Billy then asked, “If you had 50 sheep, would you give 25 of them to the Lord?”

Bob proudly replied, “Absolutely, without question!”

Then Billy asked, “What if you had two goats? Would you give one of them to the Lord?”

Bob replied indignantly, “No way! And you have no right to ask me that! You know I have two goats!”

It’s a funny story but it rings true. It’s easy for me to think that if I had a million dollars, I’d love to give it away to help people, or to ponder all the great things I’d do for my family with money like that; but when it comes to giving away a small portion of my free time to parents who could use a break from their kids, or doing a favor that costs me in the here and now, that’s where the true essence of giving really kicks in.

I know a lot of missionaries who do great works of evangelism and charity, and it’s inspiring to read about the orphanages they help and the seminars they host, and all the other great projects they do. However, I have a very personal description of what makes a missionary: it’s someone with a giving heart. That means not only do they do big, impressive (and usually well-advertised) works to help the poor or disadvantaged, but they’re also always there to lend a helping hand whenever there is a need. They give to their own hurt; and they don’t ask for or expect favors in return. They don’t have a personal agenda. They just give. And you can feel their love and kindness in their actions. They’re the ones you only ask for help when you really need it, because you know they’ll do everything in their power to help you. In return, you want to do anything you can to help them. Their lives are examples of cheerful and selfless giving.

I would love to be remembered as someone like that! Sure, we all have bouts of selfishness, and human nature tends to take the path of least resistance, but it’s something to strive for, don’t you think? Sometimes giving can be as simple as a sincere compliment, a hug, or a word of appreciation. It can also be giving your favorite gizmo to your little brother or sister when it would mean the world to them.

I think the author and artist Kahlil Gibran3 said it best: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

1 Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (October 2, 1869–January 30, 1948) was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. The term “Mahatma” is Sanskrit for “Great Soul,” similar to the Christian term “saint.”
2 New International Version
3 Kahlil Gibran (January 6, 1883–April 10, 1931) was a Lebanese artist, poet, and writer.

Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2014 by The Family International

Article originally appeared on Just1Thing (
Published: April 18, 2014
See website for complete article licensing information.