Friends have severed ties because of it. Family members have vowed not to speak to each other because of it. Lovers have quarrelled because of it.
What is it? MONEY!
I am finding it hard these days to come to grips with the reality that somehow after the bohemian dream of love making the world go 'round, essentially, money does play a big part in oiling the gears of the rotating earth.
It was much easier when money wasn't the center of trade or the gauge of wealth. Money has become THE fruit of labor, thus, one cannot part with it as easily as a head of cabbage. But even then during the barter trade, exchanges of valuable materials always equated more valuable items. But then again, people didn't starve to death because they couldn't afford to buy bread.
It would be interesting to look at the history of trade and how money came to be, but this is not the point of this entry.
The point of this entry is to tackle the challenge of being a cheerful giver. The Bible says that God calls us to be cheerful givers. There are so many parables of how a poor woman gave her last penny to the altar of God and God rewarded her for her generosity. There are so many other Bible stories - the Good Samaritan, the parable of the talents. Some tend to confuse more than the other. But that is probably because I am lacking in enlightenment.
Anyhow, humanity is called to be generous. There are volumes of charitable institutions doing this and that. They ask for money/donations to make it successful. Even if the causes appeal to the heart, one cannot translate that into love unless one reaches into the deep recesses of the wallet or the bank account.
Humanity is called to give without expecting a reward. But why is it so difficult to part with THE fruit of labor? Money has gained such an importance that to be without it makes one invisible. A quote I heard over and over again through my short lifetime is "Great poverty and great wealth dehumanizes." One ceases to be human after experiencing these two ends of the wealth spectrum.
Why does man have to amass so much wealth? After doing so, he still wants to make more. Money doesn't buy happiness unfortunately and most rich people end up feeling empty and still feels deprived of something. Reasons are sometimes that they want to provide for their family. They don't want to let their families suffer the way they did when they were lacking. But man is never content. It is an endless cycle of wanting, getting, and not wanting what you get or being unsatisfied. So, one moves into another cycle of want-get-not want-more wants. When does it end?
On the other side of the spectrum...when one deems that the only solution to extreme poverty is to beg, in whatever form - be it on the streets or as beneficiaries of a charity. How does it feel to be at the receiving end? Does it create a cycle of help me-i'm poor-my-only-hope-is-the-kindness-of-other-people. Where does self improvement come in?
It was known long before that through hard work one could survive. You only needed to flex a bit of muscle to hunt and gather and eventually to slash-and-burn evolving to the more stationary means of livelihood. It used to be that livelihood was the task that ensured your survival. Now, livelihood is anything that gives you money because money makes the world go 'round and without it, you can't survive. I am getting very sceptical. i am trying to see whether i am just bitter because i lack money. of course, i wouldn't be complaining if i had enough of it. But i've met people who have enough of it still complain. They complain about giving to poor relations. They complain about having three cars instead of five. There are a multitude of reasons for complaining about the excess or the lack of money.
Back to being a cheerful giver...If one is called to be a cheerful in giving, is it because we expect something in return. A reward from heaven? The promise of eternal life? The investment in the heavenly bank account that will guarantee entrance to the Pearly gates? I wonder... For the non-religious, is it to just be good? Are they also cheerful in giving? If one gives, is it given without any expectation of reward? Even a fat heart is a reward in knowing you've helped someone. Does being a cheerful giver make you a selfless person? Or does it only mean that you smile when you give?
My thesis is that everyone upon giving, be it altruistic or otherwise, expects some sort of reward. What makes them cheerful givers is the fact that at the end of the day, there is someone who benefited from their charity. The say smiles are priceless, at least MASTERCARD says so. :D But being a cheerful giver is predicated on the result of the expenditure.
Even cheerful givers are saddened if their generosity has been squandered away on some vice, a bad business venture, or spent on unnecessary luxuries. Overseas workers just cringe when the motorcycle they invested in crashes or another child doesn't finish college because they opted to engage in unsafe sex and got pregnant. Who would be cheerful to provide for not only their child but also their grandchild? Isn't it that parents invest in their children's futures so they can eventually fend for themselves, give them wings and hopefully return the favor when they are older? At the least, the first two still hold true.
So, what does it really mean to be a cheerful giver? Does it mean parting with whatever material possession or anything of value and just smile while giving it? Does it mean just letting go of it and letting the receiver do what they will with it because you gave it without conditions or expectations?
Is there such a thing as unconditional cheerful giving?