The following is an excerpt from my new book Giving Is the Good Life. I hope it encourages you to look today for God-given opportunities to experience the adventure of giving!
The popular expression “random acts of kindness” is catchy and good hearted, but as believers in a sovereign God, we should see how He orchestrates our lives, including the people we know and the needs He brings across our path.
Cathy Osbun, a friend of EPM (our ministry), told me she knew someone whose husband was going to college, so grocery money was tight. She said, “The Holy Spirit prompted me to gather up some food, including the ham I’d just bought with my $300 monthly grocery budget. I struggled with that ham, thinking we’d have no more grocery money for the month. Thankfully the Holy Spirit won. I had my sister quietly place the bags of groceries on my friend’s porch.”
While Cathy didn’t expect it, what happened next seemed like God’s way of showing His approval. “I shopped at a grocery store that drew a signed receipt weekly for that amount in free groceries. The next week my receipt for over $300 was drawn. As far as I know, my friend never knew who provided the groceries, but God sure did.”
I believe that while it’s wise to do most of our major giving in a thoughtful, planned way, there’s certainly a place for spontaneous giving. But even unanticipated giving is not ultimately random. If you believe in a sovereign God, then being somewhere at a certain time and place when a particular person is also there is not random, but providentially orchestrated by God.
Acts 17:26 says, “From one human being he created all races of people and made them live throughout the whole earth. He himself fixed beforehand the exact times and the limits of the places where they would live” (GNT). Since God fixes the exact times and limits of where people live, doesn’t this suggest He also fixes the times and places we will be on any particular day? Sure, people have free will, but that doesn’t mean God can’t take into account your free will and mine (and everyone else’s), so He can schedule us for divine appointments with people at certain times and places.
The next verse tells us the beautiful purpose God has for fixing our exact times and places: “He did this so that they would look for him, and perhaps find him as they felt around for him. Yet God is actually not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27, GNT, emphasis added). Part of our role in divine appointments is helping people look for and find the grace of Jesus. Perhaps having His followers everywhere is part of the way God is not far even from unbelievers. He touches others through us.
One afternoon, I bought a stranger lunch at a pizza place (I left my credit card with the cashier while I ate, and told her to use it for whoever came in next). As I saw the stranger smile, this thought came to me: God had me here today, not for a random act of kindness, but to fulfill his ancient plan and purpose. He prepared in advance for me to buy lunch for this man at this place and time.
I couldn’t have put that particular man on my schedule. What I can put on my schedule is a giving adventure—a day of giving, where I don’t buy anything for myself without giving something to someone else.
After spending two bucks at a dollar store on work gloves and a pair of giant plastic spiders to scare my grandsons (both purchases proved to be good investments), I kept my eyes open for a giving opportunity. Leaving the store, I saw an energetic and raggedly dressed little boy peering into every window. From the look on his face and the way he ran ahead of his mom and grabbed the door, he thought he’d arrived in paradise.
I approached the young mom with three dollar bills and asked if she would buy some things for her son. She looked at me, incredulous. “Are you sure?” Smiling broadly, she walked in to share the good news with him.
I didn’t have one of my booklets, and I didn’t have the opportunity to tell her I’m a Christ-follower. But I didn’t waste money that day. Jesus was behind the whole thing. I prayed he would use this tiny event somehow in their lives.
Jesus said that where your treasure goes, your heart will follow. Three dollars isn’t much of a treasure, but I can still picture that woman and her son, and even as I write this, I’m praying for them again.
That’s what giving does—it takes us on an adventure and ties our hearts to people we otherwise would never have noticed or connected with. And some of them we will see again on a redeemed Earth filled with endless adventures.