In the financial Services industry, at least here in The United States, there is a saying that ‘there is no free lunch!’ In other words you cannot get anything for free. Typically, if someone offers or gives you something, they want something in return even if they say they do not. This ingrained thought process, mentality, of ‘no free lunch’, is not necessarily bad; it is a form of self-protection. Because of this thought process however, many people do not know how to accept a true and pure gift. People have gotten used to ‘being had’ or ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’. When they have been given a gift in the past, the giver may have mentioned the gift months or even years later. The giver is now wanting to collect on the gift they initially said they did not want anything for in return.
The fact remains however, that there are many people on this earth who love to give out of a pure heart, asking for nothing in return. As a giver, I would like to offer some tips on how to give and how to receive. These tips when practiced, will protect both parties, the giver and the receiver. Please keep in mind that giving does not pertain to just money, it pertains to tangible as well as intangible gifts.
1). Think before you do. If you give whenever people ask, or even if they do not ask, people will perceive that ‘your hand is free’. In other words, they will believe that you have a lot (of money) and you will hand out gifts at will. In my opinion, whether or not you are a wealthy individual, it is never a good idea to give at will. If you do, word will get around and you may be approached by absolute strangers. I will discuss this more in the next point.
2). Use common sense in your giving. If you are a Christian, you should pray for, and exercise the spirit of discernment. Deuteronomy 28-29 says ‘They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them. If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be!’ The context of these verses is that God was angry at His people because they had turned their backs on him, and turned to other gods. The people were not discerning or understanding how God felt about this. We cannot turn our back on God and do our own thing, even in something as ‘simple’ as giving. Discernment is that one extra step you take when deciding whom to give to, when, how, and how much. I will talk more about that later.
3). People who have the gift of giving tend to be soft-hearted. There is nothing wrong with having a soft heart, but it had better be surrounded by a discerning mind and common sense. This does not mean that the giver should become mean-spirited and un-giving. To become such a person is just the opposite of the personality-type of a giver, and it is un-Godly. The fact is, God wants us to exercise common sense. He is not the author of confusion and He does not want us to be confused.
4). The left hand should not know what the right hand is doing. When you give, there is no need to make an announcement. ‘“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”–Matthew 6:1-4. The bottom line is, not even your close friends and family need to know what you are doing. You would have already spoken with Jesus, your closest friend, and He would have given you the OK to give. In fact, He may have spoken to you to give. If you want your gift to count for charitable giving tax purposes, by all means, write that check. If it is cash, make sure the receiving organization gives you a receipt and is aware you will be claiming the gift on your taxes. In fact, ask for a receipt whether it is cash or check. The key: there is no need to make a big deal.
5). Some people do not know how to accept gifts. If you want to give a small gift you will not claim on your taxes, you just feel lead to give someone a small gift; I suggest you still speak to God about it and ask Him for discernment. This is because some people are dealing with underlying issues such as pride and they do not know how to simply say ‘thank you’. I have witnessed this with my own eyes. Do not let this type of experience keep you from giving in the future, learn from your experience and let God direct you. This is why I keep bringing up the importance of discernment. God will tell you to whom to give, and even to whom not to give. If you acted without discernment because you heard someone crying broke or just having a financial difficulty and you attempted to give them a small gift, these same people could still become prideful and may even attempt to embarrass you.
6). Many givers are not wealthy. Most givers are not rich or wealthy people. Givers are people who operate out of a budget just like everyone else. The difference is that givers include giving in their budget. Giving is not an afterthought for people who love to give. Givers are comfortable with not spending the extra money on a toy for themselves, and giving the money to someone, or some organization. The bottom line is this: we are all wired differently. Some people like to give and some have to work on the giving aspect of their personality. Because we all have different gifts and strengths, we must ask God to direct us and grow us in the area of giving.
7). Finally, use common sense. If you see someone on the side of the road with a can asking for money, you will not have time to stop and ask God for discernment. You should have already prayed to God for discernment. You should already know what you will do in that situation. If your pastor is asking for a special offering, you should already know if that is the church for you and that your special offering will be used wisely. Sitting in the pew squirming about what to do, wondering why they’re always asking for money, is not the time to try to make a decision. God is not the author of confusion. Ask Him for help and discernment not only in giving, but in every aspect of your life. Amen!