Money was scarce when I was growing up. I never lacked anything vital, but I never had so much that I could casually give something away without feeling the pinch.
Once when I was 17, a homeless person asked me for some money. I had been taught that giving brought good things back to you, so I calculated how much money I needed for my train fare home and gave him the rest—around ¥500, or roughly US$7. It was difficult giving away my last bit of pocket money. While I can’t say that because I gave $7 I got back X dollars in return, I do know that over the years I’ve received enough back to firmly believe in the “law of returns.”
Jesus expressed the law of returns like this: “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”1
Notice how it doesn’t say “the amount you give will equal the amount you get back.” It says it will “determine” the amount. In fact, when you give, you often get back above the amount you gave, like the story of the boy who gave his lunch to Jesus.2 There was a need—5,000 hungry people—and there was the boy’s offering—five loaves, two fish. Nothing outstanding at first glance, but just look at what Jesus did with it!
My two-year-old nephew likes to share his food. It doesn’t matter what he’s eating or even whether it’s something he likes or not, he always wants me to taste it as well—even if it’s his favorite flavor of potato chips or ice cream. His apparent trust that there’s more where that came from makes giving easy. But as adults, we know that things run out, and that makes giving more difficult.
It’s at such times though—when we feel like we’re down to our last crumb of goodness, compassion, time, or whatever—that we should remember that God has more where that came from, and He isn’t worried about running out.