Guest Post by Jeff Anderson with AcceptableGift.org
We’ve all heard the reasons people hold back in financial giving. You may have even heard or taught sermons about them: fear, greed, biblical ignorance, poor money habits, etc.
In my years of interacting with givers, I have observed some subtle and more practical reasons people are held back from acceptable giving.
Whether you’re new in the giving journey or a teacher or pastor encouraging other givers, here are three things you can stop doing to help embrace more freedom and growth in giving.
#1. Stop Looking for that Magic Moment
Often Christians want an “experience” to accompany their giving… a peaceful easy feeling that tickles their hearts when they drop the check in the plate.
When people write a check, or click “Pay Now”, for their mortgage or rent, they're not looking for a magic moment. Still, they enjoy their homes - working in the yard, sitting on the patio, or watching their big-screen.
In the same way, no one is looking for a spiritual buzz when they pay their Mastercard or Visa. Still, they enjoy the vacations, the dining experiences and stuff they purchased.
Sure, knowing that our gifts can please God should bring peace to our hearts…and our giving. But if we have the wrong expectation that a warm fuzzy should be there, we’ll get confused or even discouraged when it’s not.
Giving is a lifestyle…not a moment
If your giving choices influence your lifestyle in a meaningful way, you will experience worship through giving all the time. But if your lifestyle influences your giving instead (by giving leftovers or amounts that don’t really matter to you), your giving won’t be fulfilling. Often this leads to giving less or even not giving at all.
Years ago my wife and I decided to drive our cars for as long as it was cost effective to do so. Without continuous car payments, we could direct more of our disposable income towards a giving lifestyle.
When my power windows stopped working and my air conditioning did too, it seemed ridiculous to be driving the car during certain summer months. After all, we had the means to get it fixed – or even buy a new car.
But we also knew our lifestyle choice was enabling us to support our church, missions and the needy in greater ways. We felt worship through giving all the time, not just during the Sunday offering.
The issue is not merely about sacrificing lifestyles. There is nothing wrong with new cars. I drive a much nicer car now. The issue is that a giving lifestyle helps to engage your heart outside of Sunday worship. And when your gifts involve meaningful trade-offs, they will please God too.
So when it comes to writing a check, paying online or dropping the envelope in the plate, stop looking for that magic moment… or that peaceful easy feeling. Leave that to The Eagles.
#2. Don’t Obsess about the Methods
If you grew up giving weekly into the offering plate on Sunday mornings and that venue is meaningful to you, then continue this practice. If instead you prefer the discipline of automating your gifts online, then do that. If monthly or quarterly giving is more practical for your planning and cash flow cycles, then trust the freedom to give accordingly.
Again, the idea is that your gifts cost you in a meaningful way. The overall measure of your gifts matters more than the method or the frequency.
Systematic or Sporadic?
A friend of mine began giving systematically for 12 months straight. Previously, he had always given sporadically in line with his the unique patterns of his business. When he asked for my thoughts on systematic versus variable giving, my response was this: give in whatever way allows you to give the most!
He knew me and he knew what I meant. So he discontinued systematic giving and returned to giving in a way that suited him better.
Apostle Paul was very interested in the Corinthians setting aside money systematically (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). He encouraged them to do so weekly, so that the money would be saved up when the collection buckets came around again. Rather than a mandate for weekly giving, Paul’s instructions were to encourage them to be ready when he came back months later to collect the gifts.
While most of us may benefit from the help of systematic giving, the point is this – there are no rules! As stewards and money managers, we are also gift managers. We are free to utilize the methods that help us to give in line with our circumstances.
So stop analyzing the gift methods. If you give an amount that matters to you, it will matter to God also… regardless of whether you automate your gifts or write checks, give weekly or monthly, give with moving music during church service, or while paying bills with the kids yelling in the background.
#3. Stop Looking for the Correct Causes.
Making gift decisions can be difficult. There is no shortage of places to give. Needs are rampant. Kingdom vision-casting abounds. So how do we determine where to give? Who deserves our help? What recipients are worthy of our support? The answer: RELAX!
God is not standing behind certain “cause curtains” waiting to see if you’ll walk through the right ones. Instead, He is paying attention to your gifts directed to Him.
For those who have been on a mission trip, you recall that before the trip you spent most of your time thinking about the “effective work” you were going to do. But after the trip you spent most of the time talking about what happened to your heart. That’s because when it comes to missions, often God does more in us than through us. The same goes with giving.
We should give freely and openly. Don’t complicate the giving process. Don’t over-think the needs. Just start giving. And don’t try to give everywhere. You can’t.
But as you develop in the giving journey, you’ll learn to sense God’s leading to be more discerning and selective and in line with a clearer giving purpose. The generous givers I know tell me they rarely, if ever, regret a gift… even when the outcome may not be as effective as they envisioned.
What about “church giving”?
There are some biblical guidelines to help us in this area. We are biblically instructed to support two groups through financial gifts: (1) the “seed- sowers” - which include the local church, missionaries, word-based organizations, etc; and (2) the needy – the poor, orphans, widows, hungry, lame, etc.
The matter of tithing and “church first” giving is a beefy one and can’t be fully addressed here. But in short, we are commanded not to neglect giving to where we are fed spiritually – and that means supporting our local church. And as scripture makes very clear, we are to remember the poor with our gifts as well.
If we keep these gift categories in mind, grace abounds in our gift choices.
Keep in mind, God is the primary recipient of our gifts. Do not let your giving be driven by need for an experience... or search for the right method… or understanding the “right” gift recipients.
Instead, try looking up to God with your gifts. Make giving a way of life. Explore new methods and giving rhythms. And pull the trigger more freely with your gifts.
In doing so, you’ll likely discover a lifestyle experience that fills you, a giving method that motivates you, and a heart transformation that is worth more than any effective work.
Jeff Anderson has worked with churches and non-profits for nearly two decades, as elder in his own church, and as Vice President of Generosity Initiatives with Crown Financial Ministries, and currently as leader of AcceptableGift.org.
Jeff continues to consult and speak, and is the author of Plastic Donuts, A Fresh Perspective on Gifts.