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The theology of giving

"The theology of giving" Continued...

Issue: "Effective compassion," Sept. 2, 2006

And, of course, special relations between family members are nonexistent without gift-giving. You can't be a family if all you do is calculate the equivalents of what each does for the other as you seek to maximize your own benefits. If you approach child-rearing in this way, you'll literally destroy your kids in no time-they'll die of neglect!

Giving is a fundamental mode of human existence. When we identify it as such and nurture it, then we'll be able to be givers in all spheres of life. And let's not forget churches as schools of giving. I think that's an important role of churches, institutions established to celebrate and encourage the passing on of God's gifts of redemption and creation-including material wealth-to humanity.

WORLD: A practical question that weighs on some of our readers-for those who want to give away much of what God has given them, but are concerned about having enough for their lifetimes should they live long-is there a moral problem with bequests or other vehicles that result in the bulk of giving coming after death?

VOLF: I haven't reflected deeply about this issue, but my sense is that there is no problem with the kinds of arrangements you mention, provided that one's generosity doesn't get neglected in the here and now. If there's a healthy stream of generous giving on a daily, weekly, yearly basis, I see no problem with preserving a reasonable amount to live long and well. If a person's giving is for the most part postponed till the post mortem, however, his interest in his own well-being has illegitimately overwhelmed his generosity toward others.

Gift-giving is very much related to one's sense of security. If we find our security in the things we possess, we'll hold onto things; if we find our security in the gift-giving God, we'll be generous-we'll show active and tangible concern not just for ourselves but also for others.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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