When I was about 35 we had four young children and not a lot of money. One time, for example, someone invited us after an evening church service to go out as families for ice-cream. I was embarrassed to decline but we did not have the money to buy ice-creams for the six of us and we did not assume they would pay. Lest he think us unfriendly I had to tell him why. Shortly after that he asked again but this time he said, “Can we treat you and your family to ice-cream?” It was very kind of him and we all enjoyed the treat.
Being low income while we were in school for eight years and then in our first pastorate (until I took a second job), gave me a view from that side I now value. We did not expect people to solve our problems and we did not look for handouts. But I did notice some things about many Christians around me at the time. I noticed that they were slow to see a need or to empathize with the stresses of a low income. They had no idea, for example, what a DQ or Boston Pizza gift card would mean to someone who could not afford it. I also noticed that for some people the idea of giving generously made them nervous. Maybe it seemed irresponsible or excessive. I made up my mind, though, that when I had a better income I would try to notice the financial struggle of others and be generous. Not everyone was like that, of course. One time a family invited us to use their cabin on the lake for free. It was like winning the lottery and became our most treasured holiday in that stage of our lives.
In the Old Testament the Israelites were told to leave the corners of their fields unharvested so that the poor could come help themselves (Leviticus 19:9). A present day application of that could be to put a small portion of every paycheck into an envelope marked “gifts”. Then we can look for someone who might appreciate a gift card or some cash as an encouragement and help. If we do that God will remember and reward it forever.