I have an ongoing issue with giving money. I’m a student, and that means student debt. Whether it’s a hefty mortgage or the Christmas shopping debt, many people face the fact that giving would simply add to their liabilities. I thought about this at length before university, and found that I couldn’t cheerfully say ‘I’ll give 10 per cent of my loan (for example) and the Lord will sort out the rest’.
Perhaps I should have more faith in God as provider, but minimising my debt just seems the most prudent option at present. Having made the decision to postpone regular giving until I was earning money, I wondered how best to be generous. These are some principles I came up with for my own life, and hope they are useful to you:
1. Give in ways other than money.
I find this difficult, but it’s very important. For many of us, giving of our time, emotions or other resources requires more of our generosity than financial sacrifices. Volunteer. Invest in other generations. Use your skills. Be imaginative.
2. Surround yourselves with opportunities to be generous.
We don’t have to take all these opportunities, but they keep us on our toes. It might be a regular newsletter from Tearfund, or going to a developing country. For me, it’s often the plight of homeless people as I walk from the university to the city centre.
3. Allow for impromptu generosity, even financially.
If God’s Spirit wrenches our heart for a poverty-stricken family on our street, or the destruction of Typhoon Haiyan, we realise that we cannot wait for years before doing something about it.
4. Hold ourselves accountable for our generosity.
If you’re in an accountability group, you may well have found that it’s easier to speak about your prayer life, or struggles with temptation (both of which are important issues) than about the ways in which we love people. But let’s also be asking each other questions such as ‘When was your generous last week?’ or ‘What opportunities do you have for loving your neighbour?’
5. Be generous with the generosity that we can offer.
Surprise our past and future selves with how much we’re giving. Applying point 1 to this means that it doesn’t have to be financial giving. This is what Jesus is talking about when he says: ‘And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.’ If giving is a chore, give more
6. Avoid unnecessary debt as much as possible.
Obviously, there are times when going into debt is a necessity and a wise action, such as my student loan, or many mortgages. But, as a society, we tend to err towards too much debt, as the recent recession revealed. And debt can cripple our generosity.
7. Don’t feel guilty for what we can’t do.
I love this verse from 2 Corinthians 9:7, ‘Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ Notice that this verse isn’t an excuse not to give; indeed, it begins with the words, ‘Each one must give’. Rather, it upholds the principle of cheerful giving. You can feel the joy oozing out of those words of Paul. When we can give, be joyful. When we can’t give, there’s no compulsion, be joyful!
Do you agree? Is it better to be careful with how much money we give away and avoid getting into more debt? Are there other ways which you’ve found that you can be generous which don’t involve money?