Do you ever get annoyed when, after making a charitable contribution, you get a receipt for your gift accompanied by another envelope? That used to bother me. It seemed as if they were saying, “Thanks for your gift. Now please send some more.”
My thinking changed after I had to start raising my own financial support while working for a Christian ministry. That’s hard work – and humbling. Initially I felt like a kind of beggar, telling potential donors that I needed to raise my own funds and asking if they would consider becoming financial partners with me.
It was extremely gratifying when many that I approached not only agreed to contribute to my support but also said they considered it a privilege to do so. They believed in me and the work I was doing, and enjoyed knowing they were a part of making it possible.
The issue of the reply envelope accompanying the giving receipt was resolved one day after I had noticed one of my faithful donors hadn’t sent in a contribution for a couple of months. I gave him a call to see if he was having any difficulties, or if I had offended him in some way. Not at all, he said. In fact, he apologized for failing to send a gift as usual.
He explained the response envelope served as his reminder to send another gift; apparently he’d misplaced the last one he received. He thanked me for reminding him and promptly sent not only his regular contribution but also made up for the ones he had missed.
Years later, I’m no longer on the staff of a charitable organization needing to raise funds. But I’ve come to see the value of receiving a reply envelope for giving to causes we want to support. The envelope is convenient – looking up addresses is bothersome. I’ve actually contacted one ministry we support on a couple of occasions, asking for an extra envelope or two, just in case.
The greater issue, I’ve realized, is not the envelope that accompanies the giving receipt but our attitude toward the act of giving. Whether it’s our local congregation and the pastor’s annual stewardship sermon or sifting through mail we receive from non-profit organizations requesting funds, we can perceive this as an intrusion. “They’re always asking for money!”
However, giving has been central to God’s plan from the beginning. It’s actually introduced in the first chapter of Genesis, the Bible’s first book. “God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has seed in it. They will be yours for food.’” (Genesis 1:29). The Lord was pleased to share what He had created with the first humans.
Next, he provided a very special gift for Adam: “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man.” (Genesis 2:22). Determining the first man needed “a suitable helper,” God gifted him with a wife. To which Adam responded with the biblical equivalent of “shazam!”
Most of us know the most important verse about giving in the Scriptures: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” (John 3:16). Through Jesus Christ we can receive forgiveness for our sins, redemption, salvation, sanctification, and the assurance of eternal life – the gift that keeps on giving.
But the Lord didn’t intend for the act of giving to be one-sided. Jesus made this clear, addressing the subject on many occasions. Luke 6:38 recounts His promise, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
When considering a charitable gift of some kind, we tend to focus on what we’re giving up. Jesus said in essence that God’s people will never become poor by being generous. This is one reason in Acts 20:35 the apostle Paul was, “…remembering the words the Lord Jesus Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
The Old Testament book of Proverbs contains dozens of verses offering guidance in how we should give. Among my favorites is Proverbs 11:24-25, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”
Our motivation in giving, however, shouldn’t be what we anticipate receiving in return. Our love and devotion to God, who has done so much for us, should be our underlying motive. In exhorting believers in Corinth to cultivate lives of generosity, Paul writes, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Shortly afterward the apostle admonishes, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Several times I’ve heard Bible teachers explain the term “cheerful giver” in the Greek literally means to be a “hilarious giver.”
When you have opportunities to give in support of ministries and causes you believe in, is this your attitude? Can you give “hilariously” and eagerly? Or do you give “grudgingly or under compulsion,” clinging tightly to the money or check you’ve written from your hand – or resenting the reply envelope?
* * *
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly published, ”Marketplace Ambassadors”; “Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace”; “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” A weekly business meditation he edits, “Monday Manna,” is translated into more than 20 languages and sent via email around the world by CBMC International. The address for his blog is www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.