Monday, March 3, 2014

The Motivation of Our Giving

By Kiara Jorgensen

At the end of what has seemed like winter in perpetuity, we're leaning into a new season, Lent. Historically the liturgical season of Lent has involved something about giving up. Many of us say so long to chocolate, shopping or Facebook for the season of Lent.

The process of release, far from merely a cultural legalism, can be a transformational one. For when we give up - our time, our indulgences, our anxieties - the fullness of Christ can become more real in our lives. Biblical scholars refer to this paradox of dying into life as kenosis, as exemplified clearly in the Christ hymn of Philippians 2, where Christ ...

Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himselfand became obedient to the point of death-even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-7)

As women, we understand sacrificial love. We often give deeply to those we are in relationship with at all levels. If we are moms, we hand over our rest, autonomy and waistlines to our babies. We give our clean kitchens and time alone to our children. And this isn't 40 days out of the year. No, in family relationships we enter into a
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brand new way of life, the kenotic way. So beyond typical Lenten messages of giving up, perhaps what we need to hear isn't about giving more, but our motivation for giving.

Let's be honest, there is a big difference between surrendering oneself out of fear and giving of oneself in faith. For to those of us living in the realm of the former, too much credit is given to us as individuals, as if the very fabric of our relationships depends upon our sacrifices. When we live in this place we give to avoid crisis and chaos. We give to keep our lives steady. In short, when we give as if such sacrifice is simply business as usual, we try to give to our closest relationships that which only God can give.

In contrast, a Christ-like, kenotic giving of self is an act of faith. Here we give to be used by God, all the while trusting that God will provide for our family and closest relationships. We resist the temptation to be all things to those we love best. This kind of giving often requires us to attend first to our own fears and anxieties. For as Paul reminds us in the Philippians text, Christ actually gave up his position in his sacrifice for us, trusting in the power of his relationships to the Father and the Spirit.

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In this Lenten season may we see our sacrifices not as ends in themselves, but rather as opportunities to release ourselves and those we love to God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Kiara Jorgenson is a Ph.D. candidate in theology at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN. She lives in South Minneapolis with her husband and 2 yr. old daughter and regularly attends a local chapter of MOPS. Her occasional blogs about motherhood and Christian academia can be found at:

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