Does process really matter? When it comes to giving, scripture points out that some details in the process do matter. Sure, we all have our own preferences, but it’s always good to check ourselves against any instructions found in scripture to make sure we’re not missing something. I’ve put together a list of things to consider as you examine your own giving process.
In keeping with the concept of honoring God by giving our firstfruits, it’s a good practice to prioritize giving so that it’s the first thing we do when we get paid. When we make giving the first item in our budget, we keep it in its rightful place. If giving is really a priority, we should want to do it first. It also protects us from ourselves and eliminates the excuse that we don’t have the money to give. Co-mingling giving money with spending money is a dangerous process. The longer it stays in your spending account, the greater the chance that you’ll end up using it for some less important purpose. Why should we trust we’ll have it left in the end to give to God when the IRS clearly doesn’t trust us that much? It’s not by accident that taxes are taken out of our paychecks before we get to put our hands on that money.
If you get paid twice a month, you should try to give twice a month. By coordinating giving to your pay schedule, it builds a habit of honoring God as you receive. People that don’t give on a regular basis often don’t give as much as they think they do. This is evident each summer as many churches suffer from a giving slump as families go on vacation. For most people, it’s a simple oversight, but one that can be avoided with a good process. It’s very common for people I’m counseling to be surprised at the amount they gave the prior year because it’s typically not the amount they thought they gave.
We see this regular method of giving in Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians as they were setting aside money to give to the church in Judea. 1 Corinthians 16:2 – “On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up…”.
Building a pattern of regular giving is the first step for anyone new to the concept of giving. Regardless of amount, developing a systematic pattern is your starting point. You can always increase the amount later, but at least start by building a faithful habit of honoring God first.
We read in Matthew 6:1-4, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
The idea of giving quietly addresses the true motives of our heart. Are we seeking rewards now or are we more interested in God’s rewards to come? What a pity it would be to forfeit eternal rewards for the small honor we may receive today. There are exceptions to this principle we should consider. There may be times when it’s okay to share details about your giving in an effort to encourage or teach others. After all, we are instructed “to stir up one another to love and good works” in Hebrews 10:24. As long as our heart is seeking to honor God and not receive the praise of man, we shouldn’t fear sharing our stories.
Another aspect of giving quietly is releasing control of our money the moment we give it. We should not seek to use it for power or influence. Once the money leaves our hands, we need to entrust it to the leadership of that organization. They have been placed in that role and will one day give an account for their decisions. I often find that people are more willing to turn their children (their most important assets) over to the teaching of their leaders than they are to trust their money to that same church leadership. If we can’t trust our church leaders with our money, there are bigger issues that need to be addressed either personally or within the church.
Giving is first and foremost an act of worship. The word worship can be defined as an act showing worth. We give out of recognition for how great our God is and out of a thankful heart for how much He’s given to us. Giving is the perfect act to show God’s worth because it flies directly into the face of our own selfish desires. When we give, we actively value Him more than anything else our money could buy. If we’re just going through the motions in our giving, we’re missing a great opportunity.
Giving worshipfully requires us to be actively involved in the process. Husbands and wives should both share in the process of giving. If one writes the check, the other one can drop it in the basket. There was a time when my wife did both parts, but I found that I was missing out on the worship because I had no involvement in the process.
I also want to mention that while I fully understand the value of automatic (electronic) giving, I also see the danger it presents by making giving a one-time decision that soon becomes a passive activity. As we think of honoring and worshipping God with our giving, we can’t do that if we’re not actively involved in the process. It makes me think of Facebook birthday messages. When Facebook reminds all your friends that it’s your birthday and they send you a quick note, does it carry as much weight as when they remember on their own and go out of their way to wish you a happy birthday? Take it one step further and imagine that they could set up their account to automatically send a birthday message to anyone that was having a birthday without even going through the motion of typing the message. Would that birthday note have any value at all? Effort and sacrifice does add value to any gift.
We often hear the quote, “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7), but have you ever wondered why it’s so important for us to be cheerful in our giving? Consider the importance of cheerfulness in light of worship as we just discussed it. How much worth are we placing on God if we give begrudgingly? However, just because we’re struggling to find happiness in our giving, we don’t have a valid reason to not give. That act of giving always has value because it shows that God is worth more than what we’re giving up. In fact, the act of giving is the best cure for an unhappy heart. Repeatedly placing our money where it should be will hopefully mold our hearts to be more cheerful over time because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). If you want your heart to be cheerful, then you have to give first and pray for that result.
“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion” (2 Corinthians 9:7). We can’t give what we’ve decided in our heart to give unless we’ve taken the steps to make that decision. That requires planning. If you’re married, then it also requires communication with your spouse to determine the right amount. From time to time, you may be presented with opportunities to give spontaneously. It’s still great to give in those occasions, but our primary giving shouldn’t be decided as the offering plate is coming down the aisle. Put in the time to explore the area of giving in your life and then decide on an amount. Then all that’s left to do is follow through.
I’ve heard it said that God doesn’t use giving to raise money, but to raise disciples. Giving is a process that can lead to great sanctification when done properly. While we can ultimately get the money where it belongs in other manners, if we seek to honor God the most with our gifts and grow ourselves into the image of Christ, we should strive to do everything just the way God has instructed. It’s ultimately for our good and God’s glory.
Brad Graber, CFP® has been working with clients on personal financial planning and investment issues since 1996. He invests his time mentoring and educating individuals on ways to be better stewards of the resources God has entrusted to them.