Our award-winning Lent challenge - 40acts - is now in its 3rd year.
40 days, 40 reflections, 40 simple acts of generosity.
Join the movement at www.40acts.org.uk and let's start a generosity revolution across the world.
Sign up and you'll receive an email every day during Lent, with a generosity challenge and a thought for the day.
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Guest bloggers this year include: Shaun King (Founder of HopeMob), Krish Kandiah (Evangelical Alliance), Chine Mbubaegbu (threads), Nicky & Sila Lee (Holy Trinity Brompton), Miriam Swaffield (Fusion), Chris Duffett (Baptist Union), Paul Kerensa (Comedian and writer for BBC series 'Miranda'), Ruth Awogbade (Magnify), Lord Michael Hastings (House of Lords), Anne Atkins (BBC Radio 4), James Catford (Bible Society), Rob Parsons (Care for the Family) and many more.
Camel-hair shirts and the locust diet.
A long time ago, in a garden overflowing with goodness, a naked young lady was convinced by a talking snake that she wanted more. This lie was an enormous whopper the like of which no-one had ever heard because, in reality, this young lady wanted for nothing. All of her needs were met. But from the moment the lie was heard, she itched for more.
The problem spread down the centuries and into every human heart until, one day, a desperate crowd stood by a desert river and said to a man,
“What should we do?” (Luke 3:10)
The man was John the Baptist, a desert preacher who had no possessions whatsoever. He ate locusts and wore a robe made of camel-hair. He dedicated his life to not wanting, so he was qualified to speak on the matter. He answered,
“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke 3:11)
Notice that John didn’t say give all your shirts, just the ones you don’t need. But I bet no-one who heard him speak that day offered him a shirt or topped up his supply of locusts. But that’s OK; it wasn’t a literal instruction – it was massively more important than that.
Giving away half your wardrobe does not immediately give you spiritual and personal fulfilment. You do not become perfect by donating to charity shops. So we can’t ignore the next tsunami or stop giving to the DEC because we cleared out our least fashionable shirts. Rather, John the Baptist was talking about a life of absolute generosity where everything we own is to be halved and shared with those who don’t have enough.
That was a tough calling, but the people responded.
John the Baptist was immediately surrounded by a host of ‘sinners’ asking for individual advice and direction. ‘But what about us tax collectors?’ ‘What about us soldiers?’ Every answer he gave was different in the detail but the same in spirit.
Use only what you need and give the rest away.
This message was so radical (apparently) that people began to wonder if John the Baptist was the Messiah (Luke 3:15). They hadn’t even met Jesus, the real Messiah, who would set the bar at the highest level.
The itch of want will take over and blind us to the need of others, if we let it. Giving generously helps undo the process. So I suggest we start small and build up.
The generosity challenge:
First, throw open your wardrobe door and pull it all out. Find the good stuff that (for whatever reason) you just don’t wear. Bag it up, and give it away to a worthy cause. I know John the Baptist didn’t mean this literally, but why not, eh? Give it a go.
Secondly, when you’re queuing to pay for your coffee, count the money in your wallet or purse and divide it by two. Pay for someone else’s drink even if it means changing your own order.
Thirdly, look for an opportunity to give a substantial amount to a cause. Make personal sacrifices so that you feel the pain of giving. Forego a pleasure or want so that you can fulfil the need of another. If your wealth is in time, hospitality or skills, give from those. If it is financial wealth, you know who to talk to.
This blog series is the next step on from Stewardship’s Lent initiative, 40Acts. We don’t have to restrict sacrificial and generous giving to the time of Lent. Why not carry on the Lent challenge throughout the year? Find an opportunity to give – and I mean really give – this October.
On 1st October 2011 at 8.30pm, sixteen members of the Stewardship staff will gather at the O2 in Greenwich, London, to complete (probably) the longest walk of our lives. The Shine Walk traces the London Marathon route for the complete 26.2 miles, and participants walk through the night to raise money for Cancer Research UK.It's a cause that is close to many of our hearts simply because cancer has become such a widespread and devastating illness. We at Stewardship wanted to join forces with Cancer Research UK and show our support for the charity that does so much to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.
We have set a fundraising target of £5000, with each of us aiming to raise varying amounts. All of us have a story to tell, and you can head to the following pages to read them, see who has already donated, and make a donation yourself:
Lots of our family and friends have already made donations - and we're so grateful that they believe in us! - but one particularly encouraging story of generosity emerged from a social network - Twitter. One of our supporters attracted the attention of a complete stranger - a Secret Millionaire in fact - on the social network, and asked him if he could advertise the fundraising effort via his Twitter account. Given that philanthropists and celebrities tend to get these kinds of requests on a daily basis, it came as a really lovely surprise to see that the Millionaire in question not only advertised the fundraising effort to nearly 700 followers on Twitter, but also made a donation himself.
Thanks so much to those who have given so generously; we look forward to seeing some of you at the finish line, and will blog the full story (with photos!) after the event.
blogs by the Stewardship team and selected guest writers.