Give Until It Hurts
Help our world, nation and communities thrive again
By Norris Burkes
Over the years, people have asked me if I dance. I often reply, “No, I’m a Baptist.”
“What does that have to do with your dancing ability?” they’ll ask.
My answer comes from the lyrics—“Guilty feet have got no rhythm”—from George Michael’s 1984 hit song “Careless Whisper.”
These days my dancing ability is greatly impaired by the guilt I feel from my financial good fortune.
No, my wife and I aren’t amassing a windfall. We live a modest life on Becky’s teacher’s pension and my retirement check from the Air National Guard. With the cost of living in California, our outgo usually matches our income.
Yet these days we are like many Check-of-the-Month Club members who are watching their bank accounts inexplicably grow.
I attribute the swelling more to simple inaction rather than intentional action. We just aren’t spending money on travel, dining or movies. Also, no more Walmart shopping trips to buy our grandkids oversized plastic dinosaurs.
My stay-at-home life brings me face to face with my past greed and I realize how much I don’t need. I don’t need new clothes. I don’t need to update my phone or buy a bigger TV. I don’t need to overload my cart at the big-box stores.
All of this introspection has inflicted me with a kind of survivor’s guilt. I feel a bit shamefaced, almost believing that I’ve done something wrong by prospering during these traumatic times.
I wish I could return my first stimulus check. I’d like to tell the government, “Keep it. Give it to someone who needs it. Double it up for someone else.”
I can’t do that, of course.
But Jesus spells out an alternative in Luke 12:48. “To whom much is given, much shall be required.” In other words, give to others what has been given to you.
He’s not suggesting just any kind of giving or tipping. These times call for sacrificial, extravagant giving.
Jesus described this kind of giving while watching the rich contribute large sums to the temple treasury. Out of nowhere, a widow appeared gripping two small coins called “mites,” the smallest of currency. Without fanfare, she slipped the coins into the collection box.
Jesus pounced on the moment to make a point to his disciples. “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all” (Mark 12:41 ff).
It’s time to give until it hurts. Give until your bank account is lower than it’s ever been.
Give tips larger than expected. Give thanks to everyone who’s working at the gas station or delivering your mail. Give your sympathy and your dollars to people who aren’t working.
I’ve done my best to follow this advice for the past three months. I’ve been blessed to give to both a local and national women’s shelter. I’ve given to the Salvation Army, 4-H projects and my church benevolence fund.
If you too find yourself with a growing bank account, I encourage you to help our nation and our world thrive again. If you do, I believe you will discover that extravagant giving can be guilt-free.
Lastly, most of you know about the Chispa Project, a nonprofit founded by my daughter, Sara, to start libraries in Honduran elementary schools. If your budget allows extra giving this month, Chispa is seeking funding to help Honduran schools support distance learning. For more information, visit www.chispaproject.org.
Norris Burkes can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento. Burkes is available for public speaking at civic organizations, places of worship, veterans groups and more. For details and fees, visit thechaplain.net.