'Give It Away,' Gaither tells Baptists

INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--Bill Gaither of gospel music's Gaither Vocal Band told Southern Baptists the answer to the nation's economic pressures is not a political solution but a spiritual solution based on God's people learning to "give it away."

"I think it starts with us, and I think when the church of Jesus Christ gets organized, we've got the resources to do it, and we can do it when we put our heads together," Gaither told messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Indianapolis June 10.

As part of the Executive Committee's morning report, the Gaither Vocal Band emphasized stewardship by singing their hit song "Give It Away," and then Gaither spoke briefly about the importance of giving.

He said he and his wife Gloria still live in the same house about 50 miles north of Indianapolis where they lived as schoolteachers during the first decade of their 45-year marriage.

"We've tried to model for our three kids and now they're trying to model the same thing for their kids the joy of giving, and I'm convinced that when we find the joy of giving we will find the joy of living. It's built into the universe," Gaither said.

"My granddad told me this years ago and my dad told me the same thing, 'Bill, you've got to make up your mind. There are two kinds of folks in the world, takers and givers,'" he added.

The lyrics to the song Give It Away include: "If you want less lonely and a lot more fun and deep satisfaction when the day is done, throw your heart wide open and give it away. If you want more happy than your heart can hold, if you want to stand taller, if the truth were told, take whatever you have and give it away."

In remarks to Baptist Press backstage, Gaither, a member of the Church of God, said he has "felt right at home" with Southern Baptists since the beginning of his singing career and didn't mind emphasizing stewardship during his time at this year's convention.

"You don't follow Jesus very long until you get into the area of giving. It's all about giving. In fact, He says, 'Come follow Me and die,'" Gaither said. "By the time we're done, we've given it all away. We've spent everything we've got. We've spent every bit of energy we've got, we've spent every bit of resources we've got, we've spent every bit of health we've got.

"It's over, and we go home to be with Him," Gaither said. "That's the basis of it. That sounds rather tough, but in the long run it's the only way to joy and real happiness and total fulfillment."

Gaither said he is grieved by what he called the tragic pursuit of happiness at all costs that is so evident in today's culture. Jesus, he noted, said anyone who wants to save his life must lose it.

"That is total giving," Gaither said. "I think somehow we've got to start teaching our young kids at a very, very early age the importance of giving. We're not going to live until we learn how to give."

A model for giving was set by his father and grandfather as he was growing up, Gaither told BP.

"I never saw two people who lived for others like they lived for others," he said.

Gaither remembers witnessing his grandfather signing his name to the church mortgage note, taking responsibility to keep the doors of the church open, he said.

"But it didn't stop at the church. It went home with little deeds of kindness in the community," Gaither said. "When my dad passed away at 91, the community people said, 'I don't know what we're going to do now without George here removing our snow during winter.'"

Onstage, Gaither told Southern Baptists he often advises young musicians to examine their lifestyles and make sure they don't buy cars or houses they can't afford.

"Save something to give away. A tenth is just the beginning, and after that there's so much joy in learning how to give," he said.

At Gaither Vocal Band concerts, Gaither said they've been giving away $1,000 each night to five different people, and they ask those people to take the money back to their communities and give it away.

"Giving is the Christian theology lived out at its fullest," Gaither told BP.

The SBC Executive Committee's stewardship division has emphasized in recent years "It's a New Day," a financial freedom initiative intended to help church members get out of debt and learn to manage their finances according to the counsel of God's Word.


Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press. For more information, visit www.sbc.net/newday.

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