Lent: Giving from Substance or Surplus?

Like millions of others around the world, I’m preparing for the 40 days and 40 nights of Lent. Many people know Lent as a time of fasting. However, another key element of Lent is the act of giving.

This prompted me to share something with you. It’s about the difference between giving from substance and giving from surplus.

These 2 types of giving are profoundly different.

  1. Giving from surplus. This means giving your spare money, spare time, etc. It’s about giving what’s left over. It’s about offering what you have no real need for.
  2. Giving from substance. This means giving money, time, etc., which you do have a need for. So, you need to go without something in order to give. It’s the opposite of giving your left-overs.

Here’s an example of the difference between giving from surplus and giving from substance.

A super-rich person gives millions to charity, but their wealth is so vast, they have no real need for it. Someone living on limited finances buys coffee for a homeless person, but to do so, they have to skip buying coffee for themselves.

  • The wealthy person in that example is giving more in monetary terms, but it’s offered from their surplus.
  • The person of limited financial means, is giving less in monetary terms, but they’re giving more of their substance.

Those of us who observe Lent are called upon to give from our substance. Not our surplus. This allows everyone, equally, to contribute. When money is tight, we could decide to make an extra 20 minutes a day available for prayer, by cutting 20 minutes from our TV time.

And we’d still be giving substantially.

Maybe more substantially than the super-wealthy person, who’s giving millions to charity, because of the tax-benefits. Or the celebrity who donates to charity in front of the cameras, and is repaid many times more, in the PR and media attention they get.

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