Giving Everyday

I don’t mean to be cynical, really I don’t. But I will have to admit that when I got more than two dozen emails from organizations and ministries on “Giving Tuesday” soliciting funds, it did feel a little gimmicky and it did make me question the manner of those who are asking for my money.

If you don’t know much about Giving Tuesday, it was earlier this week. The special-emphasis day itself is actually only four years old, having been created in 2012 when two organizations in New York, the 92nd Street YMCA and the United Nations Foundation, came together “to set aside a day to celebrate the generosity of giving, a great American tradition.” Others saw the genius of the fund-raising effort and have joined in.

It’s not hard to see how the day developed. Organizers originally were responding to the commercialization and consumerism of the post-Thanksgiving season, but also wanted to get in on the rush when the cash was flowing, following up on Black Friday and Cyber Monday with a day aimed at kicking off the charitable season. And it has been a very effective emphasis, as billions of dollars have been raised the last few years for non-profit organizations on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

No doubt, you received your share of Giving Tuesday correspondence, either electronically or by old-fashioned “snail mail,” asking for your contributions. There’s certainly nothing wrong with asking for support for worthy causes, and there are so very many good options of ministries and missionaries and organizations that do good and need our support. But I am always skeptical of people seeking to get in on the gravy train instead of trusting the Lord for his provision for a ministry that He leads.

It didn’t help that I also got several emails the past few weeks from organizations that wanted to help me as a pastor appeal to the masses with our own Giving Tuesday campaign, to make sure we didn’t miss out on any charitable dollars that may be floating around out there. They offered techniques and properly-worded appeals–for a price, of course–to make sure we tapped into the giving spirit of our parishioners and community to get people to dig a little deeper and pony up some more cash. To get it, while the gettin’ is good, as they old saying goes. Sorry, did I mention I really don’t mean to be cynical?
I will have to admit, one of my favorite emails came from Steve Brown of Key Life Ministries, who I enjoy listening to as much because of his self-proclaimed “contrarian” viewpoints as anything else. Dr. Brown approached Giving Tuesday with a bit of a tongue-in-cheek appeal, though I wonder if he may not have been using reverse psychology instead. Here’s what his email said:
Hey, we’re sending out requests for donations today because it’s Giving Tuesday.
Don’t ignore it. Okay?
Key Life will go down in flames, thousands will never hear the Gospel, and the Kingdom will suffer great loss if you don’t give.
Uh… well, not really… but that seems to work for some ministries.
So instead of that, let me just say: Be generous and we’ll be faithful.
And of course, we’ll rise up and call you blessed as will a whole lot of others.
I do like that next-to-last line. “Be generous and we’ll be faithful.”That’s a good appeal, and it’s God’s will for every Christian not just on a single day of the year, or as year-end tax deductions are staring us in the face: to be a generous giver. To give, as it has been given to you. To release, with open hands, the blessings and bounty the Lord has provided to you, as a means of blessing others. Hence, Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 9 that we are not to give reluctantly or under compulsion, but freely, as “a cheerful giver.” (And especially not a cynical giver!)

This Advent season we are reminded of the motive behind it all: “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever would believe in Him would have eternal life.” (John 3:16) That’s what Christmas is all about. God gave to us His Son, out of His great love for us. And to whom much is given, much is required. (Luke 12:48)

I trust that you will be generous in your giving, investing first in the local church and also in some of the very worthy ministries that need our support. More than that, I hope you have a giving heart all the year round that reflects the One who gave so much to you, and does so every day. May He bless your life as you give and love and serve Him this Christmas season.

I am praying for you, as I hope you are for me, and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
–Ken Letson