Eva had a huge heart – no one would deny that. Generous throughout her life, her habit of generosity became overblown in her senior years. She seemed resolved to out-give God himself. But her too often unwise giving choices had the opposite effect she’d hoped for. She became the victim of financial predators, causing immense frustration to her friends (she had no children), because she then depended on them to provide for her.
Eva’s case may be extreme, but it’s one end of the spectrum when it comes to giving. Feeling overwhelmed by the buffet of choices, many people ignore them all and do nothing. Others, like Eva, overextend themselves and leave no resources for their own needs. And somewhere in the middle stand the rest of us, who want to make a difference, but wisely.
It’s just that….well….giving brings a conundrum of choices most of us feel inadequate to make. Opportunities and ways to give are multiple, ongoing and guilt-inducing. Do we sponsor a child in a third-world country? Contribute monthly to a medical cause? Give occasional contributions to a para-church organization? Volunteer with a local organization? All of the above?
“The poor you will always have with you,” Jesus said in Matthew 26:11. His words, often taken out of context, didn’t imply that we should do nothing to assist others; rather, he indicated that there are times when immediate pressing needs vault over others and take priority – such as the need for assistance in response to natural disasters.
The Preacher and I have followed Jesus a very long time. We still don’t have all the answers when it comes to giving. But, as frequent recipients of God’s abundant generosity through the hands of others, we understand that giving to the needs around us is both essential and joy-giving. It’s also one way to keep the cycle of blessing flowing. We’ve done that primarily through consistent percentage-based giving to and through the churches in which we worship and minister. For other giving, we direct most of our gifts to organizations with low administrative costs and those with matching donations by government or another organization.
Some people discount the importance of sharing with family members, friends and people in nearby communities. But when help is genuinely needed, wisely considered and compassionately offered, sharing with people we know personally can make an even greater impact on both giver and receiver. So we also have learned to follow, over time, those sweet inner nudges of the Holy Spirit that tell us that someone needs something right now. Something we can offer, even when no charitable receipt follows.
Emotional manipulation, as in Eva’s situation, is never the best way to make giving choices. But with well-thought out giving practices already in place, sharing our financial resources can become, not a stressful practice, but a joyful one — meaning less guilt when tossing some of the many appeals for funds into the recycling bin.