They call them ‘chuggers’: people whose role in life is to connect you to your giving guilt. They are so happy to see you as you wander through the spending centre abstracted from thoughts of giving. And if you choose to sidestep the chugger, you'll trip over a beggar, cross-legged by the cash machine. A few lonely coins in the cup contrasting shamefully with the tenners shooting from the ATM. Then there's Pudsey on the TV and the latest funding request from the DEC (Disaster Emergency Committee) or a worthy cause at church.
How can we acquire a guilt-free quality in our giving so that a crisis of confusion and uncertainty doesn’t pop up every time a tin is rattled?
It’s the difference between being a generous person and a giver. We’ve all given money to something at some time, and so we are in danger of thinking of ourselves as generous. But to be generous is different from giving, especially guilt giving. Being generous means making PPDs (pre-meditated, principled decisions), planning ahead, even, ironically, for spontaneity!
In the bible the apostle Paul defines a generous person when says ‘give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion.’ He is talking about how much to give but also, implicitly, about where to give. Thought-through giving leads to cheerful giving.
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 10:7)
But there’s a world of need out there. So how does a generous person give without succumbing to a guilt trip or giving under compulsion?
Work through these four sets of questions:
- Is this really important to me? Does this line up with the groove of my life? Are there other ways in which I can tell that this issue or need is a God-given priority for me?
- Is this important to me over time? Is there a history to this purpose or can I see it being significant in my future? (It may be a one-off opportunity but longevity is a clue as to what is important for you.)
- Am I involved in the cause? How close am I to the endeavour? Am I a member? Am I in communication with them? Do I care enough to be giving time or energy or prayer to this?
- Is the recipient transparent? I don't want personal attention, I may prefer to remain anonymous, but if I wanted to know about the mission or the money is it straightforward to find out?
None of these questions are deal-breakers but thinking through them carefully will help you whittle down the myriad possibilities to a few priorities.
The generous person plans ahead wisely, which can include planning to be spontaneous! For example, you could put additional giving money aside (maybe in your Stewardship account) and earmark it for occasional disaster appeals. Or you may decide always to have an extra fiver in your pocket to buy some food for when you bump into a person living on the street.
Early on, my wife and I, somewhat over-faced by all the good causes chasing our charity, decided in our hearts that God had placed a number one priority in our lives: the church which we called our family; and a number two priority, children. So we give in a planned way to church and when we feel nudged, we give spontaneously to children's causes.
And we're able to smile at the happy chugger, say hello to the street sleeper and watch Children in Need without having a crisis of guilt and confusion each time.
So, to be generous - not just someone who gives - plan ahead, discern what it is to which you are called to give and you will find that you will be able to say, ‘no’ when you need to. And, wonderfully, you will find that you no longer feel guilty, are more joyful and give much more than you ever thought possible.