One of the most important steps a person can take to grow in his or her walk with the Lord is to be grateful for the many gifts he has given him or her. Too often, we take these gifts for granted, or over-emphasize our part in making things happen. It’s obviously a good thing to cooperate with the Lord. Yet, none of what we do would be possible apart from God, and it’s important that we recognize this.
1 Chronicles 29:11-12 says: “For all in heaven and on earth is yours; yours, O Lord, is the sovereignty; you are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor are from you, and you have dominion over all. In your hand are power and might; it is yours to give grandeur and strength to all.”
Growing in generosity
One of the most effective ways to foster an “attitude of gratitude” is to grow in generosity. Do we give because God needs the money? Of course not. After all, he is the creator of all that exists. We give as a sign of our love for God and neighbor (see Mal 3:7-10; Mt 25:35-40). I call it “the recognition factor.” Whether it’s from our time, talent or treasure, using our resources on behalf of the Lord and others is one of the best ways we can recognize all that God has done for us.
Giving till it hurts
On average, American Catholics give a little more than 1 percent of their income to charity. While the amount we choose to give is voluntary, the Mosaic law of the tithe (10 percent) continues to be a reasonable guide for our consideration. The large gap between our actual giving and the tithe is a symptom that we aren’t recognizing God’s proper place in our lives. One important attribute of generosity is that it be sacrificial. Mother Teresa once said, “Give until it hurts.” Does giving 1 percent of our income to charity “hurt” in the way Mother Teresa described? In most situations, I think it’s fair to say that it doesn’t.
Consider this example. Our family enjoys making a day trip to a quaint mountain town in Southern California, where we enjoy the crisp air, apple picking and, of course, apple pie and ice cream. We have a favorite pie shop and always make a point to visit it. If we purchase a pie and the piece I am given is 1/100th of the pie, how do you think I will feel? Certainly not very loved or appreciated, and in my case, still hungry!
While an imperfect analogy, it gets the point across. Scripture tells us we should give from our first and our best (see Prv 3:9). Instead, we tend to give from what’s left over. We give our scraps to the Lord. And because our giving is a reflection of the love we have for God, we shouldn’t be surprised if our relationship with him is less than it should be.
We also need to be careful not to fall into a “give to get” mentality. That’s what the “Prosperity Gospel” is all about, but that’s not the Gospel Catholics follow. Our giving should help us grow in gratitude and humility, which are both important virtues to cultivate as we grow in our relationship with the Lord. God love you!
Phil Lenahan is president of Veritas Financial Ministries and author of “7 Steps to Becoming Financially Free: A Catholic Small Group Study” (OSV, $19.95).