Originially posted on the Christian Post on December 23.
To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.
My mail and email are full of requests for end-of-year donations, and there are so many good causes. But it’s hard to balance how to give at a time of year when I’m shopping for so many. How important is it to close out the year with charitable giving? What kind of choices need to be made? It’s hard to get the money together for Christmas, but I feel guilty when I see those financial needs piling up. How should I balance these things?
Since there are so many great and worthy causes, I can understand your challenge. I will speak to the question of balance and priorities, but the importance of giving is the focus of my response.
You ask a great question that’s really about the stewardship of the resources God has entrusted to you. Let me be transparent, Crown is one of the charities that asks for support this time of year. One of our primary ministries is to advocate for Kingdom generosity around the world by teaching and exemplifying Christ-like stewardship.
We are just days from celebrating the biggest and most amazing gift any of us will ever receive: The free gift of God’s own son Jesus. He humbly came to earth as a baby, and died to pay for our sin debt with His own blood. He is now raised to life, sitting at the right hand of God himself advocating for us! Jesus’ free gift to us, salvation, came at a terrible price – one that neither you nor I could not pay. Yet even today, at this moment, He is reaching out to us all, offering mercy freely.
As you think through how to respond to the needs of others around you, financial included, I ask you to consider, do you give to others as Jesus gave to you? This is a question of much greater significance than whether you give ten percent of your income away.
Consider the spirit in which so many give to God or to His work on earth. God wants our hearts to be invested more than he wants our resources. Jesus illustrates this with the story of the widow’s offering in Mark 12:43-44. Though she gave significantly less than anyone else, Jesus praised her act of faith, saying, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on.” The way we handle our resources says a lot about our character. Jesus says in Luke 16:10, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
The Bible also teaches about gifts and offerings given to the work of the Lord when people were thankful or had something to celebrate. It’s not that God “needs” the money, it’s that we need to give. As earthly creatures, how can we say anything about our love for others or the Lord if we don’t act on that by sharing something we value?
In the New Testament we see a clear standard articulated, a standard that does not try to lay down the law (biblically speaking) but asks us to respond with gratitude to the grace we have experienced. 1 John 4 asks us to respond to each other as God responded to us, noting in verse 9 and 11,”This is is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him … Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”
God asks us and expects us to share in relieving the burdens of those around us. He knows that our love for Him and His people is the motivation that allows us to be cheerful in our giving.
I believe one reason that God asks us to give regularly from our income is because writing out those checks reminds us of who it is that is truly blessing us. In this act we are actively engaged in recognizing the provision of the Lord in our day to day lives. We practice this same principle by giving of our time once a week when we gather to worship.
You and I know that the money we donate doesn’t end up in a trust fund for Jesus. That money is used to sow seeds on this earth, with the potential for eternal reward.
You asked me how to balance the need to give to the work of the Lord and the need to take care of our own obligations – the answer is to put God first, take care of your family, and the rest will follow.
Begin with a functional budget. Crown has some free tools to help you make one. But after you do the math to be sure you can meet your own financial needs and plans, prepare your heart and mind to give liberally to the work of God because He has given you everything – your skills, your resources, your friends and family, but most importantly, life eternal.
It’s true that at this time of year many worthy causes are clamoring for your attention, and even as you try and decide where to invest, you can pray for them, going through the requests and fundraising letters and emails remembering these fellow Christians to the Lord, even if you can’t give to all. In our home, we give first to those that are directly encouraging us in our personal spiritual growth, our home church. Our next priority is to give to those causes that are effectively serving and expanding God’s Kingdom and spreading His love. Like you, since we can’t give to all who fit these criteria, we prioritize those organizations we know and trust. Our goal is to seek the greatest impact with what we are able to give, and to always grow in generosity.
It’s smart to make end-of-year donations for the tax implications, but in truth, we should give year round to continuously advance the work of Christ on this earth. To get ready for Christmas, begin in January and set aside money each month for Christmas shopping. Waiting until the end of the year to give to the Lord or to shop for your family really can cause a financial strain that can be avoided with some planning.
This Christmas, spend time thanking God for all that he has given you, make a list, check it twice, and when you’re done, ask yourself how God might want you to express your gratitude. It’s not about the money - it’s about the love.
OUR FREE GIFT TO YOU: If you’re looking for a little encouragement in the year ahead, please accept this gift from Crown. You can receive practical principles and daily encouragement from God’s Word in the God is Faithful devotional, sent straight to your inbox to consider what God has to say about our daily life.
To #Ask Chuck @AskCrown your own question, click here
Chuck Bentley is the CEO of Crown, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is an author, host of My MoneyLife, a daily radio feature, and a columnist for the Christian Post and a well-known speaker. Follow Crown @CrownUpdates For interviews or speaking requests contact firstname.lastname@example.org.