I’m a grown man who had his life totally changed from a children’s Christmas movie. Well, God helped too. Let me explain.
I don’t know exactly why, but I love Dr. Seuss. Maybe it’s the rhythm of the lines, or perhaps it’s the big concepts expressed with small words. Once upon a time, quite a few years ago, I was reading “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to my kids, and this paragraph froze me in my tracks:
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
I felt God piercing my soul. Maybe it was my propensity to tie and re-tie my shoes continually. More likely, I was struggling that year with the money being spent on Christmas. Even more likely, it was about the state of my heart and my ability to find joy in being generous. I felt bad that my heart wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I wanted to find excitement in giving and spending on others. I didn’t want to be known as the Grinch.
A little backstory helps. I grew up in a religious setting where generosity was not highly valued.
When I went to college to become a CPA, I learned how to use money to try to protect things. I began to live by the value that money provided safety and security. I believed that generosity was the thing that you only did after you had saved for retirement, your kids’ education, your rainy day fund, your insurance, and had every possible risk covered. After all of that, if there was anything left, you could be generous. At worst, I would be generous in my later years when the kids were grown and on their own.
Shortly after the Grinch started to move me, I found a church that taught about generosity. They appeared to operate with a generous heart toward the community and toward each other. I started to give (a bit reluctantly), then began to get involved in volunteering. In all honesty, I did it to see if their appearance of generosity was true. I wanted to see if I could “catch them” doing something they shouldn’t be doing with the money to give me a way out of giving any more. My heart was still very much two sizes too small.
But what do you know, as I started giving and serving, I saw my joy increase and my life’s impact increase. Most importantly, I saw my desire to be generous increase. I saw the way that my giving was impacting my city and family, and I started to move slowly from reluctant giver to curious giver.
I began to understand more about how my generosity could create a cycle of good in the world, versus a cycle of protection from my fears. I started to believe that if I teamed up with my church, my life could have a real impact.
Then the most amazing and awful thing happened. My world got rocked. Tragedy hit my family in ways I could not have imagined. It turns out money really isn’t that great of a protection from the things life throws at you. No amount of money was going to make the hurt stop.
Yet as my family struggled through tragedy, we were unexpectedly surrounded by community. Our community encircled us and poured generously into our lives in more ways than I can recount. With their help, I saw miracles of healing happen. I had not realized it, but as my family started to live more generously, we had been surrounded by other generous people who poured abundantly into our family.
And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so?
It came without ribbons. It came without tags.
It came without packages, boxes or bags.
And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.
And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say–
That the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.
And then – the true meaning of Christmas came through,
And the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches, plus two!
I would like to say that this was the end. I had seen the impact I could make by being generous in a community, and I had seen the generosity returned to me. I had seen literal healing in my family. My heart had clearly grown. But we are all broken in different ways, and my battle with generosity is still ongoing. I can be selfish in ways that embarrass me. I can go through periods were generosity can be harder than I imagine. But every time I fight through and live that generous life, the benefits on the other side are just amazing.
And God wasn’t done. He took me—the generosity skeptic—and put me in charge of the financial management of my church. Now I get those very questions about generosity and money management sent to me every single day. I get to communicate with those skeptics and patiently answer their questions (usually).
When someone asks a question about how the church spends money, there are always deeper questions unasked. Sometimes it is a control issue about not wanting to give up how money is spent. It can be an issue of fear (like mine), where it is hard to trust that God will provide for you. It could just be that your heart doesn’t yet break for the things that break God’s heart. It’s always something deeper than the question that is being asked.
Regardless of the reason, my answer is almost always the same. God wants us to go after the things that are dear to his heart because the beauty is—it’s for our good too. We find freedom in the process.
Whether it is my church, another church, or another cause entirely, find that thing that aligns your money to His design for good in the world. On the other side of that generosity, you will be a changed person. You will be attractive to God and to others in ways you could not imagine. Your life will see a breakthrough in so many ways—far beyond what that money alone could do for you. If you don’t believe me, just try it for a few months and see what happens. God loves to take us on a journey when we turn our heart and our money towards him.Written by Michael Whelan on
What’s your story when it comes to giving?
If someone looked at your bank statements, how would they describe your posture towards giving? Try to unpack why you’ve landed where you are. Find the deeper reasons for you like control, fear, comfort, compassion, trust, and more.
Think of one way you can take a risk in giving generously this week to test it as Mike did. Tell someone what you’re going to do and give them permission to hold you to it within seven days. Then see how you feel after you’ve tried it.
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