no strings attached

By Sarah Clayton | 24 May 2013

The Art of Giving - no strings attached


This blog is part 6 in The Art of Giving email series. Want to sign up to receive all ten emails for free? Enter your email address here.


 

“And we still have £30k set aside, which was kindly left in Mabel Dawsey’s will, towards the parish’s work with lame animals…”

OK, this is a slightly ridiculous example, but it’s amazing how many churches and charities are sitting on funds which can’t be touched because they have to be used for the purpose specified by the giver.

And then there are the Christian Workers raising support for ministry - often struggling to meet their day to day living expenses because gifts are more readily given for a project than making sure the project worker has enough to keep body and soul together.

The examples don’t end there: there are plenty of other ways we can give unhelpfully, or with suspect motives, and dull the sweet taste that should be there when we give. Sometimes it’s about controlling how our gifts are used, as with the example above, but the ‘strings’ aren’t always that obvious. What about the unspoken motives behind our giving?

Deuteronomy 15:7-11 cautions us about the unseen side to giving:

If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward them. Rather, be open-handed and freely lend them whatever they need. Be careful not to harbour this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for cancelling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward the needy among your fellow Israelites and give them nothing. They may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD our God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

I can certainly think of times when I’ve harboured ‘wicked thoughts’ or been a tad bitter about giving. No one would know it, except God, and sometimes it’s so subtle that it’s hard for us to pick up on. I can remember occasions when I’ve been aware of a need, and a little nagging feeling that I could respond, but instead I’ve procrastinated about it until the initial desire to help has been quenched. I remember thinking, “Ahh, that person has reached their fundraising target with other gifts – there’s no need for me to give now…” or “We can’t give to every cause; maybe it’s someone else’s turn this time”. Funny how easy it is to find a loophole if we look hard enough.

These aren’t the only ways we sometimes approach our giving in subtly wrong ways. What about when we give in order to get something back, such as affirmation, or approval of others? Or, how about when we give in response to feelings of guilt? Not exactly the ‘hilarious giving’ referred to in 2 Corinthians 9:7.

I also find Proverbs 11:24 challenging:

One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

It speaks for itself really. And I don’t think it’s just referring to material poverty either. It paints a picture of a closed hand, which isn’t able to give to others, OR to receive from God and others. An open hand is able to receive and then give and then receive…

Maybe we need a reminder that everything we own isn’t actually ours (Psalm 24:1) and so we can afford to loosen our grip. Especially since we’re safe in the knowledge that God is our provider (Matthew 6:25-34Malachi 3:10).

Thing is, it does take some practise, but from personal experience, I’ve found that the first time you have a breakthrough of ‘cutting the strings’, it’s easier the next time.

The challenge:

Next time you’re giving, take time to consider your motives. You might find it helpful to pray Psalm 139:23-24 and invite the Holy Spirit to test your motives before you give.

Posted by Sarah Clayton

Sarah Clayton once looked after promotions and events at Stewardship and is passionate about giving.

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