I tell my daughters about the email.
Their teacher at church sent us information about an upcoming missions project. They’ll be collecting money as a class for a ministry in our area, but she doesn’t want the parents to just give kids money to contribute.
Sure, I could stuff a few dollars and some coins into that empty container and send it in with my kids. And sure, they could hand it in and feel like they participated and did the good Christian thing that good Christians are supposed to do.
But giving should cost something.
In fact, giving should be costly.
It should require some effort or sacrifice. We shouldn’t just give when we have more than enough.
True generosity and true love require giving out of need and giving out of not-enough.
My girls protest the fact that they have empty piggy banks, no allowance and no source of renewable income since birthdays only come once a year.
The King girls will be sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets to earn those coins to give away.
On Sunday morning, I hold the cup and bread in my hand and pray before Communion, thinking this is a lesson for me, too.
I think about the cost of giving, the cost of generosity.
Surely God has given generously to us.
Maybe it’s complacency from long-term faith, from hearing those same lessons taught in the same ways. Maybe it’s selfishness. Maybe it’s forgetfulness.
Whatever the cause, sometimes I cling selfishly to what I have and forget the abundant generosity of God’s gift to me.
Could anything be more generous than grace?
Yes, I mean the cross, but even before that.
Adam and Eve stood in the aftermath of forbidden fruit and witnessed the ugly truth for the first time: Grace demands sacrifice.
They sinned. They felt shame in their nakedness and they tried to fix things on their own, fitting leaves together to form a makeshift outfit.
Genesis 3:21 says it wasn’t enough:
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (Genesis 3:21 NIV).
I’ve read that verse so often and just ran over the words without thought, but here’s the truth of it.
They sinned. So God slayed an animal at their feet. He couldn’t just pick a few animal skins off of a store shelf or drop by the tailor’s so they could be custom-fitted with a faux-leather outfit.
God handcrafted the clothes for His wayward children.
Adam and Eve stood in the garden and watched another creature die for their own offense. They witnessed the blood running red for the first time ever.
Max Lucado writes:
“God slays an animal. For the first time in the history of the earth, dirt is stained with blood. Innocent blood. The beast committed no sin. The creature did not deserve to die……….” (A Love Worth Living).
Then they had to wear the result and remember the high cost of their God-designed outfit.
As Max Lucado puts it: “As a father would zip up the jacket of a preschooler. God covers them.”
It’s the act of a dad, helping a little one fit arms into arm-holes and socks onto feet. It’s tenderness and gentleness and love when they deserved wrath.
And God did this for us, too:
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness (Isaiah 61:10 NIV).
I read Leviticus and wonder what it must have been like to watch the whole gory mess of atonement with its blood and guts and death.
It became routine to the Israelites. How could that be routine? How could the stench and the bleating of the lambs become routine?
Yet, has the cross become routine to us?
Sin should be shocking.
Grace should shock us all the more.
Maybe if I had to stand and watch God pay the price for my mess with my own two eyes, I’d be less complacent and more overcome.
Maybe if I had to let God silently drape my shoulders with a covering of His own making to hide my nakedness, maybe my heart would break with sorrow at my sin.
Maybe if I watched someone die in my place, knowing how little I deserved it, I’d learn what true generosity is: giving abundantly and without complaint even when it’s undeserved and even when it costs me dearly.
The truth is that Jesus did just that: He died for us and then He dressed us in His righteousness.
May we be overcome by grace anew.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2015 Heather King