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want and need

By Rob Chidley | 21 October 2011 | Comments (6)

want and need - rob chidley

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.

Give back. Give more. Give yourself. Give from the heart.

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.

Posted by Rob Chidley

Rob Chidley is a professional copywriter and published author.  Read his blog here:

Away from writing, he likes growing things in the garden, making jam and learning British Sign Language. His current favorite BSL word is ‘tractor’.


Mel Menzies

October 21, 2011 4:42 PM
Great article, Rob! Bet you lure a lot of people in with the vision of naked ladies - and I don't mean Nirene Lilies.

Seriously, though, you've echoed my feelings. Not that I'm perfect in putting them into practice. But I always say: I didn't inherit the shopping gene - the DNA that runs through some of my family. So I'm fortunate in that I don't yearn for "stuff", and I'm the first to admit that it must be tough for those who do.

But how can anyone drink an expensive latte without a thought for the 30,000 plus people who die EVERY DAY, most of whom are children? And how can anyone kiss their child goodnight and tuck them up in a warm bed, without a thought for those who are traffiked and abused? Even my father, who professed to have no faith, gave secretly to these causes.

Which is why I've followed suit. And found Stewardship to be such a rewarding way of doing so. Because when you've made your regular donations, it's so exciting to discover that via the taxman, there's more waiting to be given away. I know it sounds trite, and cliched, to say that it's better to give than to receive. But until you've done so, you can't imagine the thrill.

Mel Menzies: author of A Painful Post Mortem - a novel (looking at whether God's promises are to be trusted) the proceeds of which are donated to charity.

Jenny Kyriacou

October 21, 2011 5:36 PM
Rob, this is really challenging and thought-provoking. It also chimes with what I have been feeling myslef of late - about my own 'wants' versus actual needs. I think the recession although not a good thing(!) may be a means of challenging the materialistic attitudes found in (probably) all of us as individuals and possibly even more in our churches. I have been ineffectually complaining for years about the worldliness of the church. I also upset a group of Christians - in the church where my husband was a curate - when, during a study of James, I commented that we were all 'friends of the world.' It was not well received - I hope this is!

Alex at Stewardship

October 24, 2011 11:01 AM
Hi Mel and Jenny - thanks for your comments; I'm glad you enjoyed Rob's post as much as we did! Just a quick tip - if you like this kind of thing, feel free to sign up for Extra Mile. It's our monthly email giving you a thought for the month and then a rundown of the best of the generous web. This month's edition will come out this week (featuring Rob's blog and other articles), so there's still time to register to receive it! Head here to use the sign-up form:



Rob Chidley

October 24, 2011 3:34 PM
Hello Mel and Jenny
Thank you both for responding; it's really great to hear your thoughts on the matter. I think that there are an awful lot of people who don't really understand how significant the UK's financial challenges are and a nasty shock is in store! We're all going to have to give and give up more than would leave us comfortable... On the plus side, if we are woken up to the grander picture of want and need - in which we are still very much in the rich 'camp' - then something excellent will come of it, for ourselves and the people we realise we should be helping.

Lyn Watson

October 28, 2011 4:23 PM
Great article Rob and so challenging.
Yesterday as I came through the Dartford tunnel I noticed that I had enough change to pay for the person behind me as well but by the time I got to the toll booth I had talked myself out of the idea as I 'wanted' to be a drink with the rest at the next services.

What a wasted opportunity to surprise and delight someone else - I will reoslve to do differently next time.

Now for those shirts....


October 28, 2011 6:37 PM
Great article - I loved the info about John the Baptist, it had never stood out to me before and I want to spend some time poring over that passage. For an important aspect of being generous is trying to allow God and others to "inconvenience" me. I find that opportunities to give in my life come in inconvenient times and situations, and part of the greatest challenge for me is being prepared to let God alter my plans and to give up my own agenda. Would love to hear more from you. Thanks for the inspiring thoughts!

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