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The lesson I learned about giving

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I had an interesting encounter with the Holy Spirit at church a week or so ago. But, it wasn’t what I expected.

Let me back up a minute to put it into perspective. First, I have long had a special place in my heart for single moms.

I was raised by a single mother and I know how much she struggled to make ends meet just to give my sister and I the semblance of a normal life.

Second, I remember well how difficult it was for my wife and I to raise three daughters when school was about to start. It seemed there was no end to the various fees and expenses during that time of year.

So, for the past several years, I have tried to make an effort to support a single mom with an extra infusion of cash as the kids head back to school.

Usually, it is as simple as asking God to show me who needs support, and then step up and offer it.

That’s what I thought was happening at church the other day. I had never attended that church before and I didn’t know anyone.

I had settled into a seat in the large auditorium. During the run of worship songs, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to pay attention to the mom and young daughter toward the front.

Throughout the service, the prompting grew stronger that this is a woman who could use some help. By my observation, it made sense.

It certainly looked like a single mom with a daughter who was 9 or 10 years old. They seemed to have a special relationship. They were both mutually supportive of each other as though they needed and depended upon the other.

I checked my wallet. All I had was five $20 bills, one $10 bill and a few singles. I grabbed the twenties, folded them and put the wad in my pocket. I set aside the $10 bill as well.

After the service ended, I would approach the mom, explain my motivation and give her the $100 to help with back-to-school expenses. I would give the $10 bill to the girl with instructions to take mom out for ice cream someday when it seemed she could really use a treat.

As the service ended, as they were bolting out of the auditorium, I stepped in their path.

“Excuse me,” I told the mom as I introduced myself. “This may sound awkward, but are you a single parent?”

She looked a little annoyed. “No, my husband and I have four children,” she replied, brushing aside to leave.

“Sorry, I was looking to help someone with school supplies,” I tried to explain. It was too late; she was already walking away. She was in no mood for conversation.

The encounter was strange. It was not at all as I expected. I felt sort of deflated and it bothered me the rest of the day.

Later, as I was pondering how my perception could have been so far off, and why she reacted the way she did, I was convicted for failing to obey as I should have.

First, I was told that I had made a judgement call based solely on appearances. A woman with a single child does not necessarily mean she’s a single mother.

Even if she was, perhaps other strange men have preyed on her in the past. It’s a sad situation, but there are men who will endure a single mother simply to gain access to her children. She may have suspected I was some kind of creep.

Second, even if she was truthful, being married with four kids does not negate the need for financial help this time of year. I know I would have appreciated it with three girls.

As I reflected on the situation and wondered how I should have handled it, the Holy Spirit made that clear.

Yes, I was prompted to help. So, I should have just walked up to the woman, handed her the money and told her, “Here, God prompted me to help you. I don’t know what the situation is, but just know that He loves you and he’s going to meet all of your needs.”

It should have been as simple as that.

I complicated what could have been an opportunity to help someone in need — or even be an answer to her prayer — by wanting to inject myself into the situation.

In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus warns us about giving to people in need:

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Ouch!

I wanted to tell her MY story and explain MY rationale, not so God would get the praise and thanks, but rather that it would come to ME.

Lesson learned.

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Greg Gerber

A native of Wisconsin who moved to Arizona in 2009, Greg Gerber is a DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three grown daughters. He worked as a journalist for many years before pursuing a career as a faith-based writer, author, coach and speaker. Greg is the author of Pornocide: How Lust is Killing Your Faith, Stealing Your Joy and Destroying Your Life.

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