By: Dr. Steve McSwain
Publisher: Smyth & Helwys Publishing
Publication Date: May 2007
Reviewed by: Bill Alberts
Review Date: October 31, 2008
The Giving Myths is a well written treatise explaining the importance of giving of yourself, both monetarily and personally. With over 30 years of work in the fields of philanthropy and fundraising, as well as being Vice President of Cargill Associates, a national fund-raising firm serving non-profits and churches, the author, Dr. Steve McSwain, is well versed in this subject.
The Giving Myths begins with an overview of the author’s life and how it led him to his views on giving of yourself to God. We learn that both his father and grandfather were ministers; although young McSwain’s path was unclear until his teenage years, when he was influenced by a preacher who affected his life and convinced him to be a minister. Fast forward to adulthood where, although McSwain had his own ministry, he found that his life was not fulfilling. He admits to having lost his zeal for the Church and all it meant. McSwain explains how he stumbled and failed to understand God’s plan for himself and argues that this is a common failing for all of us. Again and again, he shows how ego gets in the way of giving. We all have bills, and many are worried about paying for so many of life’s necessities and luxuries. How can we give our money away?
As the chapters progress, McSwain comes to the realization that he must make adjustments to his life style in order to become a fully realized person who is content with his life. Deciding to choose another path for himself, McSwain became involved with raising funds for various churches. As he worked, he began to see that giving was as fulfilling to himself as it was to the various charities he and others contributed to.
McSwain explains the process by which he took on this self-examination, questioning his previous priorities that all seemed to stem from a place of selfishness. He learned that achieving happiness comes with giving what you have to others and that God will reward you with a more fulfilling life. Once you feel emboldened by that first reward, you will be inspired to continue the process. McSwain explains that this is doing just what the Almighty had in mind when we were given our ‘silver’ talents. The silver talents (or coins) refer to a parable that illustrates what you give to God will be returned to you. The Bible tells of a man who gives money to three servants before he leaves on a trip. Upon his return, the master asks his servants what they did with their money. Two servants respond that they invested the money and increased its value. The third buried his coin for safekeeping. This servant received the wrath of his master for his folly. The author repeats this parable with the acknowledgement that he now finally understands it and also why the man who buried the talent had it given to the one who had the most. If you don’t use what you are given, it will be given to someone who will use it as intended.
McSwain not only uses his discoveries of how to achieve happiness by giving, but uses a time honored method of witness stories. I found the use of parables as well as present day examples to be very effective in advancing his arguments. McSwain discusses the parable of the talents (mentioned in the paragraph above) and shows how they grow by giving much but tempers this with examples of those who have little or nothing. We are reminded of the `Widows Mite,’ which is a story told by Jesus about all the people going to the temple to contribute money. Each person bragged about what they were giving and although they gave a lot, it made little difference in their daily lives. Enter the widow who gave a ‘mite’ – about half a penny – which was all she had. Jesus explains that the widow was the one who would be blessed by God for giving all she had. McSwain then cleverly carries this analogy to the present day with a husband and wife with several children, a mortgage, car payments, and college tuition. They had nothing but each other and yet they still managed to give at first $20 a month and then $50. In another case, we read of somebody who gave their car to a person with greater need.
With a scientific background, I found the arguments presented in this book to be both logical and persuasive. It clearly shows why you should give your money, time, and talent to achieve true happiness. The author takes the reader along for a journey of self-discovery where he goes beyond the demands of personal ego and finds true happiness.
Quill says: Read with caution. It could change your life.