"Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity, When I give I give myself." (Walt Whitman) There are a whole lot of things and way we can give. Many of us have "given" blood and would "give" more blood when called upon to do so. Some have given of their time in the military forces, protecting our freedom as a nation. Others give to charities in the form of foodstuffs for food banks, clothing for the homeless, or used goods to local thrift stores who employ men and women down on their luck. A lot of church-goers "give" regularly into collection plates passed during service. Some will give of their time, others of their belongings, some even give of their excess, while others give "till it hurts". Despite all the ways of giving, none rises quite as close to the top of the list as when one gives themselves to another in service.
But I will say this to encourage your generosity: the one who plants little harvests little, and the one who plants plenty harvests plenty. Giving grows out of the heart—otherwise, you’ve reluctantly grumbled “yes” because you felt you had to or because you couldn’t say “no,” but this isn’t the way God wants it. For we know that “God loves a cheerful giver.” God is ready to overwhelm you with more blessings than you could ever imagine so that you’ll always be taken care of in every way and you’ll have more than enough to share. (2 Corinthians 9:6-8 VOICE)
Yes, giving financially is essential to the continuance of works dedicated to improving the welfare of those "down on their luck", or even creating a positive environment for abused women and children to find a new start to life. Giving of one's "stuff" is also a good way to put into use things you have outgrown, no longer find use for in your home, or just have too much of in the first place. There is nothing wrong with these types of "giving" - it is the heart behind the giving which God is concerned with. Too often it is easiest to give money or stuff when what is really needed is just a little bit of us!
Giving grows out of the heart. When we begin to put heart behind our giving, we might just realize our giving changes a little. We become more focused on making a difference by that which we give. Even if it is financial support, we look for ways to make every penny count such as investing it wisely so it multiplies and more is available when we feel prompted to make that financial investment into someone's life, or a work just starting up which will help those in need. I want us to notice what Paul says here - Giving GROWS. Giving is not a stagnant thing - maybe this is why God wants us to focus not on what is given as much as the heart behind the giving.
At first, we might give because we feel compelled to - maybe because something has tugged on an "emotional string" in our heart, or because we know the one to whom we are giving and care enough about them to meet some need they have at the moment. The more we exercise the "giving muscle", the stronger the desire becomes to invest of one's self into the effort of giving. Notice what I said there - investing of one's self into the EFFORT of giving. Giving is not to be an easy thing - just happen-chance and off-the-cuff. It is to be purposeful, with intent, and commitment.
Yes, there are opportunities to give "off-the-cuff", as when you see someone standing on a street corner, obviously without a home of their own, and you take them a sack of food from a local restaurant. You might not have planned that specific moment of giving, but honestly, you did it because you were moved and you listened to that "niggling". The more we put forth the effort of giving, the stronger our "giving muscle" becomes. The more we desire to be "active" in giving. This is what Paul means by giving "grows" from the heart. It might begin kind of haphazardly, but the more we practice purposeful giving, the more it becomes a muscle we exercise quite frequently.
Giving of one's self is the toughest form of giving - for it means we invest "us" into the lives of others, giving of our time or talent, and not just throwing a couple bucks in the plate as it passes by. It is found in those moments when you stop your busy schedule and pull that small child close who just wants to cuddle and read a book for a while. Or perhaps it is in the time you take away from your tasks and just focus on one a coworker is struggling with a little. It starts small, but giving always builds - for the heart never dwindles in giving - it swells! Just sayin!