Here’s a staggering statistic: each year, Americans spend roughly $20 billion on ice cream. That sounds like a lot of money (because it is), but it’s such a big number that it’s hard to understand or quantify. So what could you do with $20 billion, the amount that Americans spend each year on ice cream?
That amount of money would be enough to provide everyone in the world with food and clean water for a year.1
Wow. That blows me away (and makes me feel a little sick to my stomach).
Recently, I read Crazy Love by Francis Chan—you may have heard of it because it’s a super trendy Christian book at the moment. Honestly, I wasn’t all that impressed (which is my general reaction to super trendy Christian books), but Chan did have some good things to say, and this quotation alone may have been worth the price of the whole book:
“Remember the story where Jesus fed thousands of people with one boy’s lunch? In that story, according to Mathew, Jesus gave the loaves to His disciples and then the disciples passed them out to the crowd. Imagine if the disciples had simply held onto the food Jesus gave them, continually thanking Him for providing lunch for them. That would’ve been stupid when there was enough food to feed the thousands who were gathered and hungry.
But that is exactly what we do when we fail to give freely and joyfully. We are loaded down with too many good things, more than we could ever need, while others are desperate for a small loaf. The good things we cling to are more than money; we hoard our resources, our gifts, our time, our families, our friends. As we begin to practice regular giving, we see how ludicrous it is to hold on to the abundance God has given us and merely repeat the words thank you.”2
As Christians, we’re pretty good about being thankful for what we have, but probably not as good as we should be at sharing what we have with others—and it should be pretty obvious that just saying “thank you” falls short of the standard that Jesus sets for His followers when there are others around us in desperate need (see James 2.14-17).
As Rob Bell puts it:
“The best question isn’t, ‘What can I get?’ To take the way of Jesus seriously, is to realize that the best question is, ‘What can I give?’ Because all of us can give something—here, now, today, and then tomorrow and then the next day. What can you do to be more generous? What is the next step for you? You have been blessed. What can you give? Who are you going to bless?”3
It is imperative that we as Christians learn to move beyond saying “thank you” to getting to the point where we consciously and intentionally think about how we can use what we have to bless others.
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2Francis Chan, Crazy Love (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2008), 120-21.