Now that it’s December, the holidays are in full swing! The number one sign they’ve begun for me is that requests for donations have gone up exponentially. My social media feeds are crowded with crowd-funding campaigns for needs with varying degrees of legitimacy. My mailbox is full of petitions to give year-end gifts and help the needy during the holiday season. Today has even been dubbed Giving Tuesday, a charitable counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, where people are encouraged to contribute to a favorite cause.
When faced with so many people asking me to give, I can feel myself begin to shut down (ignoring every request) and resent the requester. There’s just so much need and no way to possibly support it all. I feel guilty for what I can’t do. I know I’m totally not the only one who feels that way. There’s just so many places one could give that it becomes more difficult to discern where and how much one should give.
As I’ve worked through my own giving fatigue, I realized there are 3 things I can do to help process the many requests so that I both give cheerfully and pass on giving without guilt.
Have I actually prayerfully considered whether God is calling me to give? This probably seems too obvious, but as giving fatigue set in for me, I realized that I haven’t actually talked to God about what, if anything, he was calling me to give. I just felt like I had to say “yes” without actually praying about it because that was the “right” thing to do.
The right thing to do is give where and how I’m actually called to give by the one to whom it all ultimately belongs anyway. Sometimes that will mean that I don’t give. Sometimes it means I will give more than I initially thought. Either way, in praying about where to give, I have peace that I’m using the resources with which I’ve been entrusted in the way God is asking.
A second question to ask yourself, “Is Jesus calling me to give right now?” Especially if your finances are tight, pausing for a few days to pray that God provides a way to give is a legitimate thing. I’ve paused and had unexpected money show up that I knew was for a certain cause. I’ve also paused and saw Jesus work through other people, while he didn’t provide a way for me personally to give financially. Most of the time, we can wait for a week to commit to praying and see how God might make the way for our generosity. That pause also makes way for the third step in the discernment process.
3. Plan another way.
What if the cash doesn’t show up in the pause? Just because you don’t have money, doesn’t mean you have nothing to give. Ask yourself, “What is God calling me to give instead?” You might have gift certificates or credit cards points that can be converted to something useful. You might have time to watch someone’s kids or even sit and listen to them over a cup of coffee. You might have a skill that would bless them. You might even discover you have an expensive habit that you’re willing to sacrifice for a time to free up money to give to a worthy cause. I’m always amazed at the things God brings to mind that can be a blessing to others that aren’t dependent on my bank account.
Even in the absence of material things, committing to pray for a need is a huge blessing to the recipient. In doing so, you’re lifting them up to Jesus (who isn’t overwhelmed by their needs) and keeping them in mind. Long after others’ checks have cleared, you might be one of a few people who continue to pray and check in with them. You’re also opening yourself up to God showing you a way to support them long after the fact, when it’s desperately needed again.
This third step is much bigger than individual causes, too. Jesus calls me to view my finances as temporary and to invest in what is permanent. I need to plan for giving in general by living below my means because it’s yet just another way I invite God to work though me.
May we be cheerful givers in this and every season, hashtag or not. May we continually be in awe as we see the Lord’s mighty hand meet needs far beyond we could do on our own, most importantly the need for lives transformed through the Gospel. Amen.