David Roseberry’s book, Giving Up, provides concrete ways to jumpstart financial giving in churches. His wisdom, gleaned from decades in ministry, gives church leaders applicable tools to do the work they need to do, which requires members of churches to be generous with their resources.
So, yes, the book is about money, much as Jesus’ teachings were filled with advice about how we think about and spend our money. But the book is more than money. The idea of Giving Up is that generosity is a central virtue in the life of Jesus and the ministry of the early church. When those who claim to follow Christ devote themselves to generosity, they find their hearts being formed to be more like Jesus’. And when an increasingly self-centered culture witnesses this inexplicable denial of the self, it is drawn to the irresistible light of the gospel.
We hope that the book offers every disciple the chance to rethink the idea of generosity. We hope that those who read it will move from thinking of giving as an accessory feature of the Christian life—oh yeah, and we try to give money—and will kindle a new imagination for offering their lives as a “living sacrifice” in the view of God’s incredible mercy (Romans 12:1). We hope to hear lots of stories of people learning to Give Up.
I’m living my own story of giving up these days. Until this year, my entire professional career had been teaching in public schools. For the past seven years, I was teaching advanced English courses to high school seniors. In that position, my main asset was my competence, my ability to project myself as the most capable and put-together person in the room. I taught in an affluent, high-achieving district—you didn’t earn credibility with an ‘aw shucks’ attitude.
It was my goal every day to represent for them the high bar I was asking them to clear. I made sure that the curriculum I created was as polished as possible. I combed over their essays to give them precise feedback with tangible suggestions for improvement. I worked hard not to hand out easy praise. And—yes, I’ll admit it—I used my looming height, booming voice, and voluminous vocabulary to increase my ‘intimidation factor.’
Honestly, it worked pretty well. Even the most hot-shot national merit scholar would respect that I had something to offer them. Even the most apathetic, ‘just-get-me-out-of-here’ senior had to admit that my class wasn’t a waste of time. I was far (FAR) from a perfect teacher, but this was one thing I could always fall back on.
Now, I’m working here at LeaderWorks, a brand-new priest trying to figure out what full-time ministry looks like. So far, it looks like wearing a lot of hats and managing a lot of things all at once. I love the work, but I have no idea what I’m doing about 80% of the time. On a good day.
This is a new feeling for me. I’m not running my little classroom anymore, sticking to the content that I long ago mastered and showcasing that before teenagers who are only beginning their academic lives. In that environment, competency was my currency. These days, I’m feeling pretty broke.
Almost all my phone calls and emails begin: “I don’t know what I’m doing…” I call up a graphic designer, a pastor, a counselor, a web-designer, an audio specialist and utter words that have never come naturally to me: I need help.
That’s basically my new mantra: I don’t know what I’m doing…I need help.
You might imagine saying that and feeling that day in and day out would leave me feeling weak or deflated. Nothing could be further from reality. Admitting what I don’t know and earnestly asking others for help has helped me begin to give up my delusions of control, my belief that appearing put-together is somehow beneficial or valuable. It has helped to reshape what I believe about myself and place myself in proper perspective with God and other people.
Giving up has been a gift to me—but it’s also been a gift to others. When I was king of my little classroom, I claimed the domain all to myself. And because I nurtured my conviction that I could manage on my own, I never genuinely opened myself up to others. In my new role, I can’t even convince myself that I’ve got my act together. I have to depend on others. And it turns out that asking for help is one of the most generous gifts you can give to others.
In these recent days I’ve seen the gifts and talents of others flourish because I asked for helped. I listened to the joy in their voices as they taught me about something they’d become passionate about through hard-earned study and practice. And the work that I have contributed was made better because of them—everyone got to share in the good work we did.
This meditation may be terribly boring for you. You may have learned all this from a poignant episode of Sesame Street when you were five. Forgive me if I am tragically behind on this learning curve. Still, I felt compelled to share my own story of (belatedly) learning to give up. I hope you’ll share yours.
Read more about Giving Up here.