Giving Tuesday: Feeling blessed? Then act blessed

Having logged more than 2 million air miles traveling to the poorest places on the planet over the past 20 years, I’ve become acutely aware of how blessed I am. I have a job, a home, plenty of food and clean water, and medical care. That puts me at the top of the pyramid in a world where more than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day.

I know that I’m blessed, but every year provides a new lesson in just how much. 

This past September, I visited Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. I walked along streets with houses gutted down to the studs and piles of rubble and ruined possessions heaped out front – each pile representing a family’s dashed dreams. Heartbreaking.

A month later, I was in Lebanon, walking through a tented settlement for Syrian refugees. The tents were brand new, because in July, the entire settlement was destroyed by fire. Nearly 100 families who had already lost everything as they fled war in Syria suffered a second cruel blow. And now they’re starting over, once again, under a 10-foot-by-10-foot tarp. Devastating.

Acting blessed is about passing some of our gratitude along to those who are struggling.

Suffering is everywhere – not just across the globe, but also here at home. Tragedy shows no partiality.

What do we do with a heightened awareness of human need? And how do we respond as the Christmas season descends, bringing even more busyness and festive distractions?

I believe the key is not just to feel blessed. We need to act blessed.

Acting blessed is about passing some of our gratitude along to those who are struggling. Acting blessed is a way of demonstrating our connectedness to one another as human beings. And the very act of giving to another somehow deepens our own humanity and sense of well-being. Giving is good for our souls.

For Christians, this should be natural, as we believe that all we have is entrusted to us by God, not for ourselves but to use for His purpose. And we seek to live out Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

But we certainly don’t corner the market on generosity. Philanthropy is on the rise among the uber wealthy, and nationwide, charitable giving continues to tick up – Americans gave $390 billion to charity in 2016, a 2.7 percent increase over 2015, according to Giving USA.

If you feel blessed, this week there’s a great opportunity to act blessed. Giving Tuesday is a day to celebrate giving after the excesses of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It puts a global focus on the importance of giving back.

Organizations providing disaster relief are especially in need of donations after a particularly eventful year: hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, the Mexico earthquake, mudslides in Sierra Leone, flooding in South Asia, a hunger crisis in East Africa, and the continuing refugee crisis in the Middle East.

World Vision is on the ground in all of those emergencies. And for every donation to World Vision on Giving Tuesday, Thirty-One Gifts will provide up to $1 million in backpacks, apparel, and bags to help women and children in need in the U.S. and around the world.

While those on the receiving end of generosity will undoubtedly be grateful, I believe it’s an even better deal for the giver. As Charles Spurgeon says, “God has a way of giving by the cartloads to those who give away by the shovelfuls.”

Richard Stearns is president of World Vision US and author of "Unfinished: Filling the Hole in Our Gospel," (Thomas Nelson 2014) "The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World" (Thomas Nelson 2010) and co-author, with his wife Renee, of "He Walks Among Us: Encounters with Christ in a Broken World" (Thomas Nelson 2013). Follow Rich on Twitter at @RichStearns.