For the follower of Jesus, giving is something that increasingly characterizes our lives. In a culture that grasps, accumulates and spends money to store and insure possessions, holding our stuff with open hands will stand out.
People who came to John to be baptized wanted to turn their lives around, turning them towards God. They asked him how that would look practically. The austere John did not miss a beat: “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same” (Luke 3:11).
Whenever we have more than we need, there is an opportunity to give. Everybody needs to decide before God what constitutes “need” in our lives, but it would seem that most of us have duplicate items we could part with. Sharing our food can involve inviting someone who is alone to eat with us—there will be plenty to go around. People who have no food may not be knocking on our doors, but we know agencies that reach out to them.
One year the school where I work presented a giving challenge. Paraphrasing John’s word tunic into shirt, we challenged students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 to go through their closets and give away one T-shirt they already had to the needy. In some ways this was supposed to be “easy”—it did not involve going to the store and spending money—but some younger students found it particularly difficult. One boy was attached to every one of his T-shirts, and giving one away felt painful. Giving away what is clearly mine is counter-cultural.