Giving helps us to take the focus off ourselves and place our focus on others. When we are struggling financially, we focus solely on our own problems. Go help out at a soup kitchen for a day. Spend a few hours volunteering at a local homeless shelter. Or perhaps volunteer at a local children’s hospital. You’ll start to realize that you’re better off than you realize.
In Today We Are Rich, Tim Sanders gives 4 rules for effective giving.
Give as a reflection of your values
We are all presented with countless opportunities to give. Some religious, some just worthy causes. Your church, missionaries, the Christian radio program you listen to everyday, the Salvation Army, the American Cancer Society, the college you attended, the March of Dimes, the United Way, political candidates and causes, various non-profits… I could go on and on. There is no end of causes that would like some of your money. Most are worthy, some are not. But how do you decide? Even if you weed out those that aren’t good causes, you still could never give to all of them.
When considering where to give, consider what special causes or issues God has laid upon your heart. If you still aren’t sure what those values are, sit down and make a list of 5 things you value in yourself and others. Then list 5 things you wish there were more of in the world. Now take that list of 10 things and rank them from 1 to 10. This can give you a simple starting point for evaluating giving opportunities.
Another option is to consider your personal experiences. Is there a particular program that has made a real difference in your life? Perhaps your parents both died of heart disease and so you give toward research to help others never have to experience what you did. Perhaps there was a time in your life when you didn’t have enough money to put food on the table, so you give to the local food bank in gratitude for what others did to help you when you were in need. Often those personal experiences provide a powerful motivation for us to make a difference in the lives of others.
Give to empower others
Give in a way that enables others to better themselves. Henry Ford was quoted as saying, “Time and money spent in helping men to do more for themselves is far better than mere giving.”
Part of this is to not just give of your money but give of your time and talents. If you have a friend who is out of work, don’t just give money to help him pay the rent, help him with finding a new job. Believe in the ministry of a local homeless shelter? Don’t just write a check, give of your time and talents to make it a more effective place.
Expect nothing in return
The word generous comes from a Latin word that meant of noble birth. The idea was one of nobility that gave out of the joy of giving, not because the person they were giving to would be able to give them anything in return.
We should give out of joy not because of what we can get out of it. Jesus said:
“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:2-4
If you give expecting gratitude in return, some times you may be disappointed, but always remember God sees what we have done and will reward us regardless of the response we get from the receiver of our gift. Even better, consider giving your gift anonymously.
If the person does want to repay your gift, be willing to allow them the dignity of doing so. Sometimes people use their giving to make sure they stay one up on the person they are giving to. Giving should never be used as a scorecard.
Give all the time.
Giving is an exercise. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Don’t wait for special occasions like Christmas or Birthdays. Begin to look daily for giving opportunities. Make a commitment to to find three opportunities to give everyday. Doesn’t have to always be money. Might be as simple as taking a few minutes to help a co-worker with a problem they are struggling with. Get creative.
Giving is one of the most fun things you’ll ever do with money. While I do not believe that we should give with the purpose of expecting God to give us back riches in return, I do believe that in general, when God sees one of his children who wisely manages what he has been given and is willing to hold it with an open hand looking for opportunities to bless those who are less fortunate, God sees a child who can be trusted with greater responsibilities because you have proven yourself faithful in managing what you had.