"Exercising the Giving Muscle"

          We’re entering the heart of our Stewardship Emphasis this fall. As a congregation, we’re thinking about our giving using four words: “All mine; all yours.” Our stewardship or our giving begins with God. God says “It’s all mine” because, well, it is. Everything was made by God and so everything bears God’s stamp of ownership. God then says to humanity, including you and me, “All yours.” All that we have has been entrusted to us. Never forget that. What you have is on loan from God. With God’s gifts in hand, we can respond in one of two ways. We can either think, “It’s all mine” and live selfishly; or, we can gratefully say back to God, “It’s all yours” and live selflessly.

          On my way to church last Sunday morning, as I was driving along River Road I was listening to an NPR program called “On Being”. Krista Tippett is the host and each week she presents an hour-long interview with a guest on some topic related to life, faith, or spirituality. This past Sunday, Krista interviewed Adam Grant, a professor at the Wharton School and author of the book, Give and Take. He has consulted for numerous organizations, including Google, the United Nations, and the U.S. Army. Dr. Grant has done a lot of thinking and research about generosity, which he calls a core human impulse.

          Let me share (give!) you two things I learned from Dr. Grant about giving. Some of his insights confirmed what I thought, and other of his insights surprised me.

          Lesson One: Take care of yourself so you can give effectively and for the long-haul. Dr. Grant said, “Failed givers are the people who help anyone. Successful givers are much more likely to be thoughtful about what is this person's history and reputation like? Before I go and overextend myself and give you 17 hours, I might want to find out if you’re likely to take advantage of me.” Good giving means thinking about what you can give and balancing your own needs against those you are asked to help. Burnout diminishes giving.

          Lesson Two: Sometimes the best giving comes in small amounts of time bunched together on a regular day. Adam [Rifkin, who is a serial entrepreneur in the Bay Area] has coined this idea of a five-minute favor and has basically spent the last two decades of his career saying, “Look, a five-minute favor is just a small act that could add large value to other people’s lives.” And we could all afford to do a few more five-minute favors each week. And you should be willing to do five minutes for anyone, right, because it’s just such a small investment that could be meaningful. And what I love about that is that it’s a great reminder for, if you already are a giver, saying, “Look, I do not have to spend 42 hours with every person who asks.” Offer a five-minute favor to someone, and make one day a week a giving day so that you can look forward to offering a lot of five-minute favors.

          Dr. Grant confirmed what I have known for years. Giving enriches and enhances your life and will enrich our congregation.

 Here’s a link to the interview: http://onbeing.org/program/adam-grant-successful-givers-toxic-takers-and-the-life-we-spend-at-work/8058